Correcting passive and second person constructions
Change passive to active Eliminate all of the following passive verbs from formal writing: am, are, is, was, were, be, being, been Read the sentence. Sometimes, you may be able to do a simple “switcheroo,” front to back and back to front: (passive) Mary was given the award by the principal. (active) The principal gave the award to Mary. Remember that passive is not wrong; prefer active.
Change passive to active Many times, however, the correction is not that easy. You may have to reword the sentence: (passive) The matter was settled quickly, but there were too many unanswered questions. (active) I settled the matter quickly, but many unanswered questions still exist. Note: A writer may discover several ways to change from passive to active.
Change passive to active The following exercises may require a change from passive voice to active voice. Write the original. Then make the best correction. Original: Tall buildings and mountain roads were avoided by Janet because she feared heights.
Change passive to active Active: Because she feared heights, Janet avoided tall buildings and mountain roads. or Janet avoided tall buildings and mountain roads because she feared heights. or Fearing heights, Janet avoided tall buildings and mountain roads.
Change passive to active Original: I was surprised by the teacher's lack of sympathy.
Change passive to active Active: The teacher’s lack of sympathy surprised me.
Change passive to active Original For several years, Mark was raised by his elderly grandmother.
Change passive to active Active: For several years, Mark’s elderly grandmother raised him.
Change passive to active Original: An unexpected tornado smashed several homes and uprooted trees in a suburb of Knoxville.
Change passive to active Whoa….don’t make a change! Smashed and uprooted are active verbs. An unexpected tornado smashed several homes and uprooted trees in a suburb of Knoxville.
Change passive to active Original: There is a better way to write this sentence.
Change passive to active Active: Rewrite this sentence. or Compose this sentence differently.
Change passive to active Original The major points of the lesson were quickly learned by the class, but they were also quickly forgotten by them.
Change passive to active Active: The class learned the major points of the lesson quickly, but they also quickly forgot them. or…
Change passive to active Active: The class learned, but quickly forgot, the major points of the lesson.
Change passive to active Final points Read each sentence with a passive verb. Then rewrite each sentence, keeping the original meaning. Once you finish the corrections, read the paper again to make sure that you have removed all forms of the verb to be.
Second person Writing in the second person is OK if giving directions or speaking directly to a person; for example: Will you please lower the sound on the TV? or Kim, do you have your assignment? or First, you should call your mother.
Second person Avoid “preaching” which is making a statement such as: When you listen to the CD you will understand why Electric Grapefruit is a great band. Maybe the reader has no interest in the CD, or maybe the reader will not enjoy the CD when she listens to it.
Second person Rewrite this sentence, eliminating second person. Original: If you do not follow directions, your TV may not work.
Second person If I do not follow the directions, my TV may not work. or When setting up a TV, follow the directions to make sure that it works.
Second person Original: Why do you have to fill out so many forms to apply for financial aid?
Second person Revision: Why must a student fill out so many forms to apply for financial aid? or Why do colleges require parents to complete many financial aid forms?
Second person Final points Avoid writing in second person in a formal essay. Write in the second person when speaking directly to a person or when providing directions.