I’m about to sound like your high school English teacher, but don’t tune me out. She actually had a few good things to say.
Yes, it’s true she lied to you about the necessity of diagramming sentences. (No one has ever done that in the real world. Ever.) But she was right in saying that it’s better to write in active voice versus passive voice.
In active sentences, the subject is doing the action in the sentence. Let’s use this sentence as an example of active voice: The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. Here, the subject (FOX) is doing the action (JUMPING). Does that ring any bells from your third period English class?
Contrarily, the subject is acted upon by the verb in passive sentences. Here’s an example of that: The lazy dog is jumped over by the quick brown fox. Here, the action (JUMPING) is performed on the subject (DOG).
It’s a fair question. I mean when are you ever writing about lazy dogs or jumping foxes? Well, here’s why it matters…because passive voice writing can be bland, long-winded, and confusing. It’s not wrong. In fact, it can be quite right in some situations—like if you’re a scientist who wants to appear objective in his/her writing. It just doesn’t make for easy reading when it’s overused.
So the next time you write, pay attention to who’s doing the action in most of your sentences. To be more clear, direct, and impactful, make sure the subject’s doing the action. Choose the active voice.