Stephen King on Passive Voice

I’m feeling a bit better today.  My shoulder and neck feel a bit better today.  Thanks to freeandflawed for the advice about the ice.  It helped.  Also, I slept with two pillows instead of one which seemed to do the trick as well.

I was going to get a bit political today and write about my new hero war correspondent Lara Logan, but I had trouble posting a video clip of her appearance on The Daily Show with John Stewart. Instead, just follow the link.

Anyhow, as I posted the other day, I’m a bit concerned about passive voice in my writing. Well, I stumbled upon this pdf of a section about Passive Voice from Stephen King’s On Writing. Here’s an excerpt:

With an active verb, the
subject of the sentence is doing something. With a passive verb, something is being done to the
subject of the sentence. The subject is just letting it happen. You should avoid the passive voice.
I’m not the only one who says so; you can find the same advice in The Elements of Style.

That about says it. Also, I read On Writing some time ago, before I was really serious about writing actually. I think I may have to go back and give it a second look.

10 thoughts on “Stephen King on Passive Voice

  1. Those who learn English as a foreign language, are told this rule about the distinction between Active and Passive voice.

    I think there are times when expressing passivity is
    the goal of the writer.

    I’m glad your shoulders are better now!

  2. On Writing is a great book. I especially loved reading his take on his accident.

    But one piece of advice I’ve always remembered was what he had to say about being too expressive with “John said” lines after dialogue. Never use a word that simply tells you how someone said something. Make the dialogue impart the emotion.

    That’s a gem that’s guided me for a long time . . .

  3. I’ve often heard advice to avoid passive voice but the passive does have a place in English grammar – “The pictures were painted by Van Gogh” for example – if you rephrased that sentence in active voice it wouldn’t have the same ring. “Van Gogh painted the pictures,” – what? Is he still alive? There right now?! What I would say is – know the rules of grammar, use them for your own expression, no language is wrong if it communicates the mood you want to create.

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