Passive voice is objectively wrong in any writing—business, academic, or artistic. Edge cases exist, but the passive voice is often unclear, imprecise, and disempowering. Language represents an underlying philosophy, so shift language to represent philosophy better. We are not objects acted upon by the world; we are subjects that act upon the world.
To avoid passive voice, start with the verb. If the subject follows “by,” the sentence is passive. To make a sentence active, consider three inversion techniques.
- Order Inversion: The dog is wagged by the tail → The tail wags the dog. The order inverts, but the meaning and words—subject (tail), verb (wag), and object (dog)—are unchanged.
- Word Inversion: Don’t be caught by the passive voice → Avoid passive voice. The words invert—the verb (caught) transforms, and the subject (voice) and object (you, implied) flip—but the order and meaning are unchanged.
- Meaning Inversion: The dog is wagged by the tail → The dog wags the tail. The meaning inverts—the dog shifts from object to subject—but the words and their order are unchanged.
Ironically, inversion can reveal how backward a passive sentence is. Invert your sentences, and the dog will wag its tail.