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Chapter 15. Correctness > 3.3.5 Overuse of Passive Voice

3.3.5 Overuse of Passive Voice

If the subject of a sentence performs the action of a sentence, then we say that sentence is written in active voice. If the subject is the receiver of the action of a sentence, then that sentence is written in passive voice. In the Exercise, sentence #5 is written in the passive voice. The revision in the Key is written in active voice.

Overuse of the passive voice tends to break down the readability of sentences and often leaves too many questions unanswered. Consider this sentence: “A significant report was written on December 17.” Who wrote the report? Are our readers to spend time finding out? While it is sometimes necessary to use the passive voice—when, for instance, emphasis should be on an object or an idea—it is a mistake to use this type of construction remorselessly.


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