What are active and passive voice?
First, it’s important to identify the subject of the sentence. In the active voice, the subject performs the action, which is described by the verb. In the passive voice, the action described by the verb is performed on the subject, rather than by the subject.
At first glance, both of these writing styles appear to accomplish the same thing and there is no real difference. There actually is a subtle difference: the active voice provides a more succinct and clearer description, while the passive requires more dissecting and more words to get the point across. Now, a few more words doesn’t seem like a big deal, but if you’re using the passive voice for an entire report or story, it can be very laborious for the reader to get through.
Using Active over Passive and vice-versa
There are some applications in which the passive voice may be good to use. In science environments, it might be better to use the passive voice to emphasize the action, rather than the subject. For instance: during an experiment or recent discovery, it may be more useful to know how or why it was discovered, rather than who made the discovery.
With that said, the trend of using the active voice over the passive has been steadily increasing over the years as styles of writing change. Even for the example given about the science community, publications are using passive voice much less, to gain a wider audience or mainstream appeal.
A Happy Medium
In the end, you should learn to use both voices as a writer and which is more suitable for grabbing the attention of the reader. This can vary from industry to industry and genre to genre. You could very well write an entire book using the active voice, but that may get a bit boring for adult-level readers. For more professional publications, you may want to think about which voice is more appropriate to either depersonalize the facts or perhaps place emphasis on the subject to create patterns in a story.
Both are key tools in a writer’s arsenal and both should be consciously selected based upon the style of writing that they want to achieve. Successful writers, like Stephen King, will transition seamlessly from one into the other to accomplish his infamous-level of suspense, while journalists will utilize both to ensure an accurate delivery that the reader can digest.