ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Passive Voice Exercises for Business Writers

Updated on April 4, 2013
Source

Passive voice is often misunderstood. While it is not necessarily incorrect to use passive voice, sometimes you can change passive to active voice, creating a clearer and more concise piece of writing.

Finding the Subject and Verb

To understand passive voice, you must first understand how to find the subject and verb of a sentence. The subject of the sentence is the person, place or thing that the sentence is about. Often the subject of the sentence is completing some type of action.

For example: Cynthia climbed the mountain yesterday.

In this sentence, Cynthia is the subject and she is the one that is completing the action of climbing the mountain. So the verb is climbed.

Linking Verbs

The subject of the sentence can also be linked by a verb to something in a different part of the sentence, usually the predicate.

For example: Bob is happy about his raise.

In this sentence, the subject, Bob, is linked to the word happy. In this sentence, happy is used to describe how Bob feels. In this case the verb is the linking verb is.

Subject/Verb Exercises

Here are some sentences where you can practice finding the subject and the verb. The answers are at the bottom of the article (Answer Box 1)

1. The cat on the roof ran from the firefighter.

2. Even though it was raining, Tony and Luigi went to work

3. Butterflies in their natural habitat are fun to watch.

4. She wears glasses when she is reading.

5. Open the car door so I can get inside.

Were you able to find the subject and verbs of these sentences? Good! Now it is time to move on to finding and eliminating passive voice.

Passive Voice

First here is a bit about passive voice and why you should avoid it most of the time. Passive voice can make a sentence harder to read. It makes your reader work harder to locate the subject and connect the subject to the action or linking verb within the sentence.

If you want your writing to be clear and concise, choose active voice. Active voice is important for how-to-articles, business documents and most academic papers.

Finding Passive Voice

So let’s take our first sentence about Cynthia.

Cynthia climbed the mountain yesterday.

The sentence about Cynthia was written in active voice. However, this next sentence ( The sentence about Cynthia was written in active voice.) is actually not in active voice.

Why?

The action of the sentence (writing) is not being performed by the subject.

Is the sentence writing itself? No. That’s not possible. Someone else is writing the sentence because the sentence can’t write itself.

So the true subject of the sentence is subverted, making it harder for the reader to grasp your meaning.

Source

Fixing Passive Voice

It is easy to fix the sentence. Think about who is truly performing the action and make them the subject. So in this case we could write the sentence this way: The teacher wrote the sentence in active voice. Here the teacher is the subject and he is performing the action of writing.

Passive voice is not incorrect and it is not always a bad choice for your writing. But when nearly every sentence of a piece of writing is passive voice, your reader may have a hard time understanding what you mean and your writing may be overburdened with unnecessary words. If you can say it in five words instead of ten, you should.

Passive Voice Exercises

Exam the following passive voice sentences. Can you change them to active voice? (Answer Box 2)

1. The cat was taken to the vet’s yesterday.

2. The closing documents to the house were signed by the couple in February.

3. The grade given to the student was an F.

4. The book was written by an unknown author.

5. The soccer game was cancelled because we could not find the coach.

Passive Voice Is Not Always Bad

There are times when passive voice is the best choice. If you are delivering bad news, for example, it may be best to soften the blow. For example: The writing is not able to be accepted for publication at this time. The sentence lets the author know that she will not be published but it softens the message, making it appear to be less harsh.

Sometimes the logical flow of your writing calls for passive voice. But if you find that your meaning and message are obscured or hard to understand, examine your sentence structure for passive voice. Rewriting a few of those sentences may make a big difference in clarity and conciseness.


Answer Box 2

1. The woman took the cat to the vet’s office yesterday.

In order to fix this sentence, the reader needs to know who is doing the action of taking the cat to the vet.

2. The couple signed the closing document to the house in February. In this case, we need to know who is signing. The documents can’t sign themselves. Changing this sentence makes it more concise, clear and easy to read.

3. The teacher gave the student an F. Here you will rearrange the sentence so the reader can understand who is giving the grade and who is receiving the grade.

4. An unknown author wrote the book. Again, rearranging the subject of the sentence makes it concise and clear. We know the subject, and we know the action.

5. The school cancelled the soccer game because we could not find the coach. The first sentence was harder to understand. Who cancelled the soccer game? This might be important information if you need to know if the person or group cancelling actually had the authority to cancel it. By putting the organization completing the action, the school, first, the sentence has a stronger and clearer meaning.

Answer Box 1

1. Cat is the subject. The verb is ran because it tells what action the cat is performing

2. Tony and Luigi is the compound subject. The verb is went and explains where they are going.

3. The subject of the sentence, butterflies, is linked to the word fun in the predicate of the sentence, describing the butterflies

4. She is the subject of the sentence. The action that she is performing is wearing glasses. So the verb is wear.

5. This is a tricky one. There is an implied subject of You in the sentence. (Imagine saying it with the subject: You open the car door.) The action of this command is the ever open so that is the verb in this sentence.

Which do you use most often in your writing?

See results

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      11 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      Great tips on how to make your writing stronger for business and other uses. Very useful and helpful.

    • bzirkone profile image

      bzirkone 

      5 years ago from Kansas

      I do struggle with passive voice in my writing. It may be several drafts later that I even recognize it. Good hub.

    • ib radmasters profile image

      ib radmasters 

      5 years ago from Southern California

      LCDWriter

      Well if you like those puzzles, then I am sure you will find many unsolvable ones in my hubs. My favorite is the run on sentence, and dangling a few participles.

      Thanks

    • LCDWriter profile imageAUTHOR

      L C David 

      5 years ago from Florida

      Thank you so much IB Radmasters. I enjoy puzzling over grammar issues and trying to figure out how to break it down into usable components.

    • ib radmasters profile image

      ib radmasters 

      5 years ago from Southern California

      LCD Writer

      Thanks for this informative hub. It has been many years since I had to diagram a sentence.

      "Cynthia climbed the mountain yesterday.

      The sentence about Cynthia was written in active voice."

      The meaning of the second sentence is clear from the context provided by the first sentence.

      Thanks

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)