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8. The Active Voice

If the subject acts, the voice is active. If the subject is acted on, the voice is passive. The red flag for the passive voice is some variation of an auxiliary verb (was, will be, have been, is being), plus a past participle (built, written, directed), plus by if the actor is mentioned.

This book was written by me. I wrote this book.
I was given an advance by the publisher. The publisher gave me an advance.

It was planned that the book would be published (by them) in the fall or 1995.
W.W. Norton planned to publish the book in the fall of 1995.

Voice thus gives a choice. Too few writers take it, however, relying instead on the flaccid passive, which almost always takes more words. The active voice normally is shorter, livelier, and more direct-and so is usually preferred.

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