Historical Writing Project

Good and Bad Writing -- Exercises in Evaluating Writing Samples

Grammar -- Active vs. Passive Voice

A verb is active when its subject performs the action.
Active voice: the American army and its allies defeated the British army at Yorktown.

A verb is passive when its subject does not perform the action.
Passive voice: The British army was defeated at Yorktown.

AV: Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton
PV: Alexander Hamilton was shot by Aaron Burr.

Historians typically use active voice because it is clearer and more concrete than passive voice.