Grammar Repair Shop: Passive resistance — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

Grammar Repair Shop: Passive resistance

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People tend to overuse the passive voice because they think it's more professional. In truth, readers prefer active sentences for their more direct and engaging tone.

How can you spot a passive sentence? Three telltale signs:

1. Something happens to the subject of the sentence.
Example: "The report was written last week."

2. It contains a form of to be (is, was, were, etc.) as a helping verb. Example: "A seminar is being held."

3. You see a "by" phrase toward the end of the sentence. If you don't see one, try adding "by Bill" at the end. If the sentence still makes sense, it's probably passive. Example: "A seminar is being held [by Bill]."

Fix passive sentences by changing the word order to fit a "Who does what?" pattern.

Passive: "Her proposal ought to be given our serious consideration."

Active: "We (Who) should consider (does what?) her proposal seriously."

Passive: "All the lights should be turned off before leaving."

Active: "Turn off all the lights before you leave." Note: In this case, the unwritten but understood "You" is the "Who."

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