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Is the Passive voice Passé or Powerful?

It has now been a full year of editing since completing my story. My novel is quite different from a year ago. I explored the use of the passive voice after checking my report on the editing report on Word. It shows the readability statistics as of Sept. 8 2021 on the novel I am writing and it says 4.7% of my sentences use the passive voice.

The passive voice is generally structured with Action or Object first, possibly leaving the noun vague. For example, 'she was saddened' or 'she was saddened by the news', or 'the king was anointed. It lacks clarity and removes the reader from the action. It can be more boring.

bored woman
Bored with reading the passive voice

Active sentences generally are structured with the Noun and then the Verb. It quickly tells the reader who is doing what. It has more clarity and impact and can be more concise and make reading more engaging. For example, 'the news saddened her' or 'the Prophet anointed the next king.'

However, a passive phrase can be essential when the writer wants to focus on the object rather than the subject of the sentence. For example, “the President was inaugurated” puts the focus on the President, rather than the unimportant one who did the inaugurating.

*The very title of my book includes the passive phrase "Forgotten Followers" because I want to highlight that the women disciples have been largely forgotten. I have left it vague whether they were forgotten by theologians, historians, or biblical writers. The main point is that many women in the Bible have been maligned, belittled, or ignored. I want to bring them to the forefront. I am not focussed on blaming any particular party for the women's secondary place in traditional Bible teaching.

*Another passive phrase in my novel is “She must be stoned”. I chose the passive voice to focus on the woman who is threatened, rather than her attackers. It's time to put the priority on the victim.

*I also use the passive form when I want to emphasize the character’s feelings, which are more important than who or what made her feel that way. For example, I may say “Mary was forgotten”, “excluded”, or “hidden” to build empathy and focus on her emotions.

*My novel includes phrases such as, “she was healed,”, “they were forgiven,” and “He has risen". In these cases, I want to leave it up to the reader to decide how it happened and who did the healing, the forgiving, and the raising from the dead. We each have to work out our own beliefs.

*Do you try to reduce or eliminate the passive voice in your *writing?

*Do you appreciate the active voice when you are reading?

*Do you generate readability statistics on Word for your writing?

screen shot Word editor
REadability statistics Sept 2021 from Word Editor

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