I read a lot of writing books so I can hone my skills. The latest book is The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier - How to Solve the Mysteries of Weak Writing, by Bonnie Trenga.
The first lesson in the book was about detecting and correcting passive voice, and this was probably the best example of attacking passive voice I've ever seen anywhere. Let's break it down:
There are three clues you've used passive voice:
- You've used a form of the verb to be (am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been).
- You've used a past participle (the past tense of a verb: washed, stolen, ripped).
- You've used the word by.
- Passive voice allows you to omit the subject (thus contributing to the ambiguity)
- Passive voice forces you to use lots of weak verbs (was and were, etc.)
- Passive voice is wordy.