GrammarPhile Blog

Master Using the Passive Voice Effectively

Posted by Kelly Creighton   Jun 6, 2019 7:30:00 AM

Writers are typically instructed to write in the active voice because it leads to clear and engaging writing. But writing that uses the passive voice is often associated with vagueness and long-windedness. Consider and compare the following sentences:

  • The surgeon severed the young girl’s carotid artery while he was performing surgery.
  • The young girl’s carotid artery was severed during surgery. 

What differences between the two sentences do you notice—aside from the fact that one of the sentences is written in the active voice and one is written in the passive voice? Which sentence do you think is clearer or more effective? And which one would you be more likely to use or write yourself?

Although we’re often instructed to avoid the passive voice like the plague in our writing, it does have its merits when used strategically and effectively.

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Topics: passive voice, active voice

How to Connect with Your Audience Emotionally Using Grammar

Posted by Conni Eversull   Oct 19, 2017 7:30:00 AM

Using proper grammar to express emotions has fallen to the wayside in a world where individuals have become reliant on using things like emojis (😲 😃), italics, bolded font, and CAPITALIZED WORDS to express their emotions when they write. But that doesn’t mean grammar has suddenly become inept in this arena. On the contrary, there are many ways you can use grammar to express your emotions effectively to connect with your audience.


It shouldn’t be too surprising that you can use the mood of your verbs to connect emotionally with your audience. The mood of a verb shows a writer’s attitude toward what he or she is writing. There are three moods in the English language.

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Topics: grammar, passive voice, active voice, indicative mood, subjunctive mood, imperative mood

4 Ways to Eliminate the Bloat in Your Writing

Posted by Terri Porter   Jan 7, 2016 7:00:00 AM

After overindulging during the holidays, many of us resolve in the new year to eat less and exercise more in order to lose weight and get more fit. The resulting healthy glow comes from feeling more energized, motivated and confident. Imagine imbuing your writing with the same kind of energy! Eliminating the bloat can make your writing come alive and practically jump off the page to draw readers in.  

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Topics: passive voice, redundancy, bloated writing, active voice, verbosity

Dangling Modifiers Can Mangle Meaning

Posted by Terri Porter   Aug 20, 2015 6:30:00 AM

Dangling modifiers … it’s one of those terms editors seemingly toss around arbitrarily, accompanied by a command to correct the offending phrases. Well, of course, nobody wants their modifiers — or any other grammatical part — to dangle. But what on earth does that mean?

Defining Danglers

Modifiers are descriptive words, phrases or clauses. When the noun they’re describing is missing or unclear, they dangle. Modifiers can also be misplaced, which is a different kind of problem — and one we’ll talk about in next week’s post.

Most danglers are participles (verb forms used as adjectives) — either present (ending in ing) or past (usually ending in ed) — although gerunds (nouns made from verbs by adding -ing) can dangle too.

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Topics: passive voice, dangling modifiers, false subject

Be Active Not Passive

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Feb 11, 2015 4:30:00 AM

“You are loved.” Writing that in a valentine to your beloved instead of “I love you” likely will have a similar effect as giving a bouquet of roses with petals that are curling and turning brown — the thought may be there, but the desired effect loses some of its impact.

That’s what can happen with passive voice. Who is actually doing the action becomes hazy. Sometimes you want or need the subject to be ambiguous or want to emphasize the object, in which case passive constructions make sense.

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Topics: passive voice

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