How to Avoid Passive Voice and Get Better Grades

Did you notice that some of your classmates have been talking about how to avoid passive voice? Or perhaps you already know that there is are significant differences between active and passive voice when it comes to academic papers. In many cases, professors won’t clearly state that they prefer active voice in essays. In general, according to academic writing experts, active voice is preferred in academic papers. As such, you should take immediate steps to learn how to avoid passive voice in writing.

If you’ve already written the paper, you are advised to edit it and replace passive voice with active voice where possible. Let’s take a look at the differences between passive and active voice, and then discuss how you can avoid the former. Moreover, we will show you a quick way to get rid of passive voice from an already written paper.

Why Learn How to Avoid Passive Voice?

What is passive voice? Passive voice is when the action is performed on the subject of the sentence. Active voice is when the subject of the sentence performs the action. It may not look like a big difference, yet it is. Here are two examples of the use of passive voice in a sentence:

Passive Voice Example 1: The dog was trained by his owner in two weeks.
Passive Voice Example 2: The sports car was driven by a drunk driver.

Now let’s take a look at the same two sentences in active voice:

Active Voice Example 1: The owner trained the dog in two weeks.
Active Voice Example 2: A drunk driver drove the sports car.

As you can notice, the passive voice examples are weaker. Active voice has a stronger impact on the reader. This is precisely why you need to learn how to avoid passive voice in your academic papers. In most cases, you are looking to keep the reader focused on your writing. You want to make a lasting impression, so that your audience remembers the most important talking points.

Using passive voice will not achieve these goals. Active voice, on the other hand, will be significantly more powerful. Also, sentences written in active voice are usually shorter and punchier. In other words, active voice usually leads to what is considered to be better writing.

The Main Difference Between Active and Passive Voice

We’ve already discussed several notable differences when it comes to active vs passive voice. However, there is another important difference between active and passive voice you need to be aware of as a student. Most academic styles (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.) actually encourage students to use active voice whenever possible. Another thing about active voice is that it makes you, the reader, look more secure and objective. You are using a clear way to communicate important things and you are actively supporting your ideas and your claims.

But why is it improper to write in passive voice? We wouldn’t say that writing in passive voice is actually improper. Passive voice has its uses in academic writing. If you want to draw attention to the subject of the action, you will use passive voice.

For example: “The dog was trained by his owner in two weeks.” It is clear that we are emphasizing the dog, not the owner. In your essay, you are actually encouraged to use passive voice when you need to achieve this result. If you are talking about the results of an experiment or of some research, you will want your audience to focus more on the findings, not on you (the person who did the research).

Tips on How to Avoid Passive Voice in Academic Writing

By now, we have probably convinced you to search for more information on how to avoid using passive voice. You don’t have to lose any time, because we’ve already prepared a couple of tips that you can use right now to avoid passive voice:

  1. First, you always need to identify the two main parts of the sentence – the verb and the subject – before writing said sentence.
  2. Also, correctly identify the direct object of the sentence, but keep in mind that not all sentences have a direct object.
  3. Ensure the subject is doing the action if you want to write in active voice. The verb is the action word, of course. Make sure the action is being taken by the subject. The direct object should be acted upon by the verb.
  4. Be careful about subject position, especially when the tense of the sentence varies.
  5. Try to avoid the verb “to be” whenever possible, or pay attention how you use it, because it is usually associated with passive voice.
  6. Practice writing in active voice. In time, passive voice writing will become less of a problem for you.

How Can I Check My Paper for Passive Voice?

We hope we’ve shed some light on the “active or passive voice” debate. We hope you now know how to get rid of passive voice from your writing style. But what do you do when you’ve already written the essay? We get the “how can I check my paper for passive voice” question quite often, so we decided to show you a simple way to check for passive voice.

In most cases, you can fix passive voice simply by looking at what happened in the sentence and at entity doing the action. In case the entity doing the action is omitted, or if it appears in the sentence after the thing being done, you are probably looking at passive voice. To make sure it really is passive voice, look at “to be” verb, if it’s present. If you see a past participle after “to be”, you are surely dealing with passive voice.

A Quick Way to Fix Passive Voice

Learning how to avoid passive voice in academic writing is not as difficult as you thought, as you can surely agree. However, things can get a lot more complicated when you need to change passive voice to active voice in an essay you’ve already written. The simple way to change from passive to active is to use a passive voice checker. Even Microsoft Word has a built-in passive voice checker. Of course, there are many other tools dedicated to identifying passive voice. Some of them will even attempt to change the sentences to active voice. Unfortunately, such software has a success rate of around 60%. In other words, it misses quite a lot of instances of passive voice. Software is also relatively bad at transforming sentences to active voice.

Here is how to change passive voice to active voice in your essay with minimal effort: hire an expert writer! An academic writer has years of experience dealing with passive voice and active voice. Unlike computer programs, a writer has a success rate of 100%. We are talking about a seasoned writer, of course. The best way to get help with your academic paper is to contact a writing agency. These writing companies can put you in touch with the best writer for your needs. Most often, simply learning how to avoid passive voice is not enough. You need somebody to show you exactly how to do it step by step. And this is the perfect job for a knowledgeable academic writer!

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