This post is part of an ongoing series on passive voice. Be on the lookout for an upcoming post by Janelle Davis, who will write about ways to effectively use passive voice.
by Kyle Piper
Three weeks had been passed since the nightmare had been started. It was remembered by me like yesterday was what it was. Across the world, a message was displayed on every screen: “PASSIVE VOICE HAS BEEN IMPOSED UPON THE WORLD” And from that day forth, impossible was it for active voice to be spoken, thought, or written in. Diabolical was this scheme. Three weeks had been spent as the culprit was searched for with our only lead being the message itself, but enough was not what it was. We were told what had been done, but the person it had been done by was left unclear.
“Crazy will be gone by me!” was shouted by Detective McHardstomp. My partner for twenty years was what he had been, but his loud mouth had never been gotten used to by me.
“Be focused, McHardstomp,” was said by me, “This case isn’t going to be solved by itself, and we aren’t going to be killed by this passive voice thing.”
“Easy to be said by you, Hammerthorpe. One of those passive voice apologists is what you are!”
Partly true was his statement. Passive voice being overused was hated by me as much as by anyone else, but it was known by me that in moderation and in the right circumstances its place was had. It was always cracked down on by McHardstomp, though.
Suddenly, a crash was heard as the door was kicked down and the room was entered by someone. We were wheeled around by ourselves for none other than the evil Dr. Schmitzenwäffle to be seen by us, ray gun in hand.
“Haha! You fools!” was shouted by him, “This case will never be solved by you! Too perfect is what my plan is!”
“Dr. Schmitzenwäffle, of course!” was exclaimed by McHardstomp. “Hammerthorpe, it is thought by me that the case has just been solved by us!”
“What? No!” was objected by Schmitzenwäffle, “This will not be counted!”
“Why has this been done by you? What could possibly be gained?”
A grin was had by the evil doctor. “Isn’t it seen by you? Science has been used for me to be turned into a nexus of passive voice energy strong enough for the entire world to be encircled. As long as life is lived by me, impossible is what it will be for active voice to be used. Because the world’s population has been forced into passive voice, massive demand will be created for the ability for active voice to be written and spoken in! Then the world’s only Personal Passive Voice Suppression Field© will be created by me and it will be sold to them at exorbitant prices by me! Then the world will be ruled… also by me!”
“Not if you are stopped by us first!” was growled by McHardstomp.
“Hah! Why is it thought by you that here has been come to by me? Too much progress has been made in your investigation, so now you must be killed. I cannot be stopped by you once you have been killed by me!”
“Dear God, Hammerthorpe! What should be done!?”
Schmitzenwäffle was shot by me.
“Hammerthorpe! You killed him!” McHardstomp gasped. “And now I can speak in active voice!” McHardstomp laughed triumphantly. “I don’t think I’ll ever use another passive voice construction again, Hammerthorpe.”
I sighed at his naiveté. “Oh, McHardstomp. Of course you will. Because sometimes it should be used, and sometimes it must be used, but always, somewhere, it will be misused. And as long as it is misused it will be discriminated against and misunderstood. But that’s where people like you and me come in. As long as the Grammar Police stand strong, heinous acts of misuse will be corrected, egregious errors in punctuation will be rectified, and above all…” I stood tall over the corpse of the nefarious Dr. Schmitzenwäffle and loosened my tie, “Justice will be served.”
You might be wondering why someone would want to write a short story entirely in passive voice. I’m wondering that too now that I’ve completed this abomination. No one, sound of mind would intentionally bring this horror into being, so my only explanation is that I’ve suffered some horrible fit of madness and for that, I sincerely apologize.
But let’s assume that at the time of writing, I actually had some real, rational intention behind creating the short story we’ve all had the grave misfortune of experiencing. Perhaps I was thinking I would try to enlighten you kind folks as to the true dangers of passive voice in effect—a sort of literary scared straight program. It’s easy to say why passive voice is dangerous, and easy to nod your head in agreement without really retaining the lesson, but I think my ill-conceived idea was to show you the logical extreme of a mistake that seems too minor to really have an impact on a larger paper. Can passive voice really do that much damage to my writing?
Yes. Yes it can.
Sure, I went a little overboard with it here, but the effect that you’ve just seen magnified in an entire short story is still present even in small measures, even in single sentences. Each time it pops up out of place it hurts, maybe only a little here and there, but if you don’t pick weeds, they multiply; vigilance is a good habit with this sort of thing. So, I guess the lesson here is one of awareness and knowing the effect that your sentence structure has on your reader. Passive voice has its place, but always be wary of it.
For more information on Passive Voice, its use and its misuse, see Janelle’s previous writings on the WaCC Blog.