Student Learning Service

Improving Your Writing

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Improving Your Writing

Active and Passive Constructions

Some teachers, lecturers and software grammar checkers get very upset by the passive voice. Students often end up thinking that somehow the passive is ‘bad’ but not understanding how or why. We at the Student Learning Service believe that the passive is neither inherently bad nor good – but that writers should understand its advantages and disadvantages, and choose accordingly.

What is a passive construction / the passive voice?

The best way to explain is by showing the difference between an active construction and a passive construction [we find ‘construction’ a clearer term than ‘voice’].

When is it wrong to use passive constructions?

As we have said, at the Student Learning Service we do not believe that passive constructions are inherently right or wrong. However, it is usually the case that academic writing is stronger and more convincing when it makes clear who did what.