Writing and Publishing

Kill Passive Writing

The sentence, “In my opinion, passive writing is bad,” exemplifies the passive voice.

The active voice says, “Kill passive writing.” My title proclaims this.

By nature, my words, both spoken and written, are passive. Many years ago, I became so irritated with Microsoft Word pointing out the passive sentences that I turned off the option. I concluded passivity was just my style. My writing voice was passive, so people needed to accept it and stop criticizing me for it.

In retrospect, I avoided the reality that my writing needed work.

Now I’m again checking for passive phrases and attacking them.

Sometimes passive writing is easy to fix. For the rest of the time, editing out passiveness is hard; often I end up with a sentence that is longer or less clear.

So, if fixing a passive sentence makes it stronger or easier to read, I gladly do it. For the rest, I’ll make an effort to fix them but am willing to retain some on occasion.

By Peter Lyle DeHaan

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, publishes books about business, customer service, the call center industry, and business and writing.

2 replies on “Kill Passive Writing”

Agreed that we should strive for active writing, but even Strunk & White acknowledge that this does not mean that the “writer should entirely discard the passive voice, which is frequently convenient and sometimes necessary.”

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