Essays with passive voice

We encourage you to keep these tips in mind as you revise. While you may be able to employ this advice as you write your first draft, that’s not necessarily always possible. In writing, clarity often comes when you revise, not on your first try. Don’t worry about the passive if that stress inhibits you in getting your ideas down on paper. But do look for it when you revise. Actively make choices about its proper place in your writing. There is nothing grammatically or otherwise “wrong” about using the passive voice. The key is to recognize when you should, when you shouldn’t, and when your instructor just doesn’t want you to. These choices are yours. We hope this handout helps you to make them.

The passive voice is often used in cases wherein the author wishes to place emphasis on, or treat as the subject, the target or undergoes – instead of the doer – of the action. While it is not commonly used in research paper writing, the passive voice does figure itself more prominently in mystery and crime writing and reportage – especially if the doer of the action is not or cannot be known. ("The bank was robbed," "Hundreds were injured last Friday in a riot at the square.") It is also suitable for laboratory reports and mathematical expressions, helping sharpen focus on the content of the reports or expressions instead of on the researchers. ("Five of these plant species were taken indoors, away from the sunlight", "Two-hundred five was multiplied by two to arrive at four-hundred ten.")

"The passive in English is usually formed with the verb to be , yielding 'they were fired' or 'the tourist was robbed.' But we also have the 'get' passive, giving us 'they got fired' and 'the tourist got robbed.' The get-passive goes back at least 300 years, but it has been on a rapid rise during the past 50 years. It is strongly associated with situations which are bad news for the subject--getting fired, getting robbed--but also situations that give some kind of benefit. (They got promoted. The tourist got paid.) However, the restrictions on its use may be relaxing over time and get-passives could get a whole lot bigger." (Arika Okrent, "Four Changes to English So Subtle We Hardly Notice They're Happening." The Week , June 27, 2013)

Essays with passive voice

essays with passive voice


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