I never claim to be an expert grammarian, but I love grammar and have enough knowledge as a grammarian to share some valid thoughts with my readers—I hope they help.
We writers work so hard to run away from the passive voice in our writing, and why? We are told in every instance—don`t use the passive voice! Our instructors teach us this, prescriptive grammarians scold us, and every writers` advice website or book commands us to run away from a passive voice sentence construction, but is this always true? No.
Most writers know that a paragraph filled with passive voice sentences makes for a boring read—this is true; however, there`s a need and a purpose for passive voice. Let`s explore.
First, let`s look at a passive voice vs. active voice sentence.
Active voice: Lori baked a red velvet cake for Scott.
In this simple sentence construction the subject Lori and the action of baking is in focus rather than the direct object (red velvet cake) or the indirect object/object of preposition (Scott).
Sometimes the object in a sentence, or the action in a sentence, needs more attention than the original subject does. In this case, we move the direct object “cake” to the subject slot of the sentence and add a form of the verb “Be” to make it a passive voice construction:
A red velvet cake was baked, and Lori baked it for Scott.
Now, this sentence is boring and a bit awkward; however, it simply shows how the focus of a sentence can change if the writer needs to use this rhetorical device for some purpose. The focus of the original construction was on Lori, and the fact that she baked a cake. In the passive construction, the focus shifts to the cake.
If an action is more important than the subject as a writer constructs a paragraph, often the passive voice will help in this situation. Passive voice is not the death of a writer, nor is it leprosy—it has a purpose at times.
One final note: The “Cleft” sentence is another way a writer can shift the focus.
It was Lori that baked the red velvet cake for Scott.
It was the red velvet cake that Lori baked for Scott.
It was for Scott that Lori baked the red velvet cake.
All of these sentence structures simply show how to shift the focus of the emphasis in the sentence using a “Cleft” structure. God Bless. WP