When developing a paper, many students struggle with the daunting prospect of having to formulate a unique, thought provoking, and interest grabbing argument. Once formulated, the argument becomes the driving force of the entire written piece. So then what is the best way to reveal this argument in order to win over your readers? This is where students often fall victim to their tendency towards passive language. The lack of confidence that many writers feel is translated into their presentation of this argument with the use of passive voice. The difference between passive and active voice is subtle and maybe even simple, but makes a world of difference to the development of your paper and the overall impression your reader is left with.
So what is this subtle difference between active and passive language?
Active language is a clear and direct way of demonstrating who is completing the action in your sentence. When used effectively, active language helps you formulate your sentences in such a way that your opinion is clearly demonstrated to your readers. “In an active sentence, the subject is doing the action. A straightforward example is the sentence “Steve loves Amy.” Steve is the subject, and he is doing the action: he loves Amy, the object of the sentence.”
Conversely, passive language includes the subject of the sentence, but this subject is merely receiving the action rather than completing the action. “Instead of saying, “Steve loves Amy,” I would say, “Amy is loved by Steve.” The subject of the sentence becomes Amy, but she isn’t doing anything. Rather, she is just the recipient of Steve’s love. The focus of the sentence has changed from Steve to Amy.”
If you find yourself falling into the trap of passive language, ask yourself if that sentence is the most effective, direct, and strong way to illustrate your thoughts. Passive language isn’t incorrect but might not be the best way to support your argument with strong opinionated thoughts. Being conscious of passive language will also help your paper become more concise and clear rather than wordy and vague, as active language directs your readers to the point you are trying to make!
Be confident! Your thoughts are interesting and valid! Understanding that what you have to say is important will be translated into the active language that drives a strong paper! Keeping in mind the active vs. passive language dichotomy is a simple way to empower your thoughts and yourself!
Check out a few helpful resources on active vs. passive language:
Post Submitted by: Ashton