1. Passive vs. Active
Active voice is the preferred essay writing style for the GRE. If possible you should always use the active voice, since it is more direct and shows action and intent. Statements made in the passive voice are weak because it is difficult to tell who or what is responsible for an action.
PASSIVE: The assignment was completed by Joe in record time.
ACTIVE: Joe completed the assignment in record time.
The passive voice does have value under certain circumstances. For instance, if you want to express something without assigning blame or if there is a question of responsibility. For example: “collateral damage has taken place.” The sentence blames no one and does not assign who actually did it.
2. Exercise: Active voice
Rewrite the following passive sentences in active voice.
1. Garbage collectors should be generously rewarded for their dirty, smelly labors.
The city government should generously reward garbage collectors for their dirty, smelly labors.
2. The conditions of the contract agreement were ironed out minutes before the strike deadline.
Negotiators ironed out the conditions of the contract agreement minutes before the strike deadline.
3. The minutes of the City Council meeting should be taken by the city clerk.
The city clerk should take the minutes of the City Council meeting.
4. With sugar, water, or salt, many ailments contracted in less developed countries could be treated.
With sugar, water, or salt, doctors can treat many of the ailments that citizens of less developed countries contract.
5. Test results were distributed with no concern for confidentiality.
The teacher distributed test results with no concern for confidentiality.
6. The report was compiled by a number of field anthropologists and marriage experts.
A number of field anthropologists and marriage experts compiled the report.