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Monday Morning Essay Tip: The Passive Voice

Many writers choose to use the passive voice in their essays, yet the best writers rarely, if ever, use this technique.

The passive voice puts the verb in the wrong place in the sentence, thereby removing the “action.” Subjects become acted upon rather than performing actions. Sentences with the passive voice typically include verb phrases like “was” or “has been” (e.g.: “it was determined,” “there has been”).

Consider this example of the passive voice:

“The marathon was run despite my injury.”

In this sentence, the verb (or action) is diminished because the writer says the marathon “was run.” A better way of describing the same activity is to use the active voice, as illustrated in this example:

“I ran the marathon despite my injury.”

Below are two more examples:

Passive: “The contract was awarded to us.”

Active: “We won the contract.”

Passive: “It was decided that I would be in charge of the project.”

Active: “My boss selected me to be in charge of the project.”

Remember—you are at the center of your essays! The best way to tell your stories and explain your accomplishments is by making sure that you are the catalyst of the stories you tell. Using the active voice ensures that the admissions committees see you as an active person who makes things happen.



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