• Elaine Kelly

Is the Passive voice Passé or Powerful?

Updated: Oct 8

This report focuses my editing and made me explore the passive voice. It shows the readability statistics as of Sept. 8 2021 on the novel I am writing.


Active sentences generally have more clarity and impact; they can be more concise and make reading more engaging.


However, a passive phrase can be essential where 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 one who did the inaugurating.


*The very title of my book includes the passive phrase "The Forgotten Followers" because I want to highlight the women disciples. Whether they were forgotten by theologians, historians, or biblical writers: I will leave that up to others to debate. The fact remains that many women in the bible have been maligned, belittled, or forgotten. I want to bring them to the forefront.


*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 is 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, 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?

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