April 30, 2017

Quotes on the passive voice

What writers and others say

“[The active voice is the] vigorous voice, unashamed to say whodunit. Passive voice is preferred by the weak, the cowardly, ashamed to name the fink who told them what they are evasively telling you.”
— John Bremner, late professor of journalism at the University of Kansas and author of Words on Words

“Reduced to its essence, a good English sentence is a statement that an agent (the subject of the sentence) performed an action (the verb) upon something (the object).”
— John Ciardi, English dramatist, actor, author

“Here’s a life tool: Always apologize in the active voice.”
— Roy Peter Clark, senior scholar, The Poynter Institute, in Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies For Every Writer

“Constructing passive sentences is a way of concealing your own testicles, lest someone cut them off.”
— Sir Ian Holm, actor, as the psychoanalyst Dr. Ernesto Morales in the film “The Treatment”

“Consider the impact of these two phrases: ‘Use the right words’ versus ‘The right words should be used by you.’ The passive voice is wimpy and inefficient. Enchanters use the active voice.”
— Guy Kawasaki, chief evangelist of Canva, an online graphic design tool

“The passive voice invariably comes across as pontificating, patronizing, talking down. It sounds insincere, even dishonest, and it makes the reader uncomfortable, not trusting, though usually the reader cannot put her finger on why.”
— Henriette Anne Klauser, author of Writing on Both Sides of the Brain

“Verbs are the most important of all your tools. They push the sentence forward and give it momentum. Active verbs push hard; passive verbs tug fitfully.”
— William Zinsser, author of On Writing Well
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