Veronique Darwin

This Passive Voice

In Thoughts on Writing on July 3, 2012 at 9:50 pm

I adore using the passive voice, making objects active instead of me. Passive voice is adored by me.

My editing notes, sitting bossy and colourful in the sidelines of my pages, often read in passive voice, like my characters and my book are running the show. Even better, that the things my book has to say are being run by the things they are saying.

“What is said by Gil?” I just wrote in a margin. It sounds like something might fall out of the heavens on to my page and tell me what is indeed said by Gil.

I wish movies could be done in passive voice. What would they look like? Passive voice weakens writing. “The pen was laid down” is weaker than “I lay down the pen” because it takes away the actor performing the action. A movie with a passive voice might have objects doing things in a void, maybe being manipulated by dismembered hands.

It seems that the passive voice is inextricably linked to personification. If I write “The song was sung by me” instead of “I sung the song,” the song becomes something that wants to be sung, a song with desires and an ability to manipulate the person by whom it wants to be sung.

Though I am in the stage of editing where I am wiping out passive sentences (and at times replacing them by prompting questions in the passive voice), I seem to have fallen in love with the thing. It’s beautiful, this passivity in writing, as though I’m not going through all this work to produce a book, but words are falling out of the sky, proclaiming their independence.

  1. ha ha! remember who coined the passive voice 😉 What was my famous sentence that started the whole debate? The quote I do forget…

  2. Obviously your grammar mistakes are inspiring 🙂

  3. […] This Passive Voice ( […]

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