Usage and Grammar

Q. Can you please explain how active and passive voice works. I am editing a technical document and I’d like to know how to better handle changing passive voice into active voice. Many thanks for your help!

A. Please see CMOS 5.118 for a very basic description of active and passive. There are also many online discussions and explanations: to find them type “active versus passive” into your search engine. Here is an elementary discussion from Purdue University; for more depth (and a great deal of amusement), here is a list of Language Log posts on the subject. Although it’s good to avoid excessive use of the passive voice, and it’s especially important to avoid using it to hide who has done something (“Lies were told”), the best writing usually involves regular use of the passive, and it would be a mistake to root it out as a policy.