Sunday, February 28, 2010


Always go for the active voice and don't be passive when writing. Always good advice and frequently given by editors, agents, writing teachers and critique group colleagues.

This critique group is very active in the writing life. This year alone several members have signed with agents and book and magazine publishers. We spend a lot of time working on our own manuscripts, much time reviewing each others' manuscripts, attending writing conferences and checking out writing blogs and web sites. Even though we spend hours sitting at the computer and reading, we are certainly active!

Using the active voice in the writing process doesn't always seem as easy, however, as the advice indicates. If we aren't as conscious of our voice writing the first draft when we are getting the story down, we realize the need to watch for the active voice when we revise the work.

Several weeks ago I googled some writing information and came across a memorial article on a much loved professor of writing from Notre Dame who had just passed away. Elizabeth Christman worked as a literary agent in New York with such luminaries as J. D. Salinger and Agatha Christie. Later she decided to teach and returned to college for a doctorate. Her students remember her directives on writing well, especially on the use of the active voice.

"The passive voice is the enemy."

So, I am going to be watchful of the intruder - the passive voice - who does creep up on me. When writing my WIP I'm trying to constantly check the text so my writing has the energy and directness the active voice provides. I hope to be a fully active writer. If I'm not successful my active critique group will guide me and make me move actively.

How do you approach achieving use of the active voice?


  1. I don't have an issue with passive voice. I really don't ever think about it. That's what years of writing press releases can do for you.

    But keeping work active -- that's a different story. Moving the story along. Keeping the action and the tension going. That takes lots of careful revision.

  2. I have problems with passive voice. It creeps in when I am lazy.