Passive & Active Voices Troubleshooting

Important: This article is about a major element of writing well – active vs passive – and also a key component of Dragoman Style.

Key points:

  • Use active voice where possible.
  • Passive is only to be used in medical journals, as necessary.

ÔÇťActivity is interesting. Where you can, write sentences with subjects that are doing things, and not subjects that are simply receiving actions upon them.ÔÇŁ (BBC News Styleguide)

Turkish makes far more use of the passive voice than English, and this is often carried through in translations. Dragoman style is to use active voice where possible.

Active voice sentences often require fewer words to communicate the same idea as the passive voice version: John kicked the ball (active) describes the event more concisely than the ball was kicked by John (passive).

It is harder to spot the use of the passive voice in English than it is in Turkish, but not exceptionally so. Sentences written in the passive voice can often be spotted through their use of the verb be and its forms (am, was, were, been, and so on).

Exceptions can be made for medical journals, but even for these Dragoman style is to only use when necessary.


In 1912 an iceberg was struck by the ocean liner RMS Titanic. (passive)
In 1912 the ocean liner RMS Titanic struck an iceberg. (active)

In 2013, efficiencies totaling 100 million Turkish lira were achieved by the company. (passive)
In 2013, the company achieved efficiencies totaling 100 million Turkish lira. (active)

Landscaping at the state-of-the-art development was carried out by our company. (passive)
Our company carried out landscaping at the state-of-the-art development. (active)

Further reading

Now try the passive voice quiz



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