Passive voice is so pervasive in news articles that an Alabama.com reporter, writing about a domestic violence shooting, managed to write nearly a whole article in it. In Hoover, Alabama, people get shot, investigated, transported, and placed on leave but it’s a mystery who did any of this stuff.
I recommend articles like this as an exercise. Notice how you can put “by zombies” after each of the verbs I’ve highlighted in bold italic below. Can you rewrite each in active voice? Original is here.
Hoover police officer involved in domestic shooting
by Paul Gattis
An off-duty Hoover police officer is under investigation after a dispute with his wife early Saturday resulted in a handgun being discharged, according to state authorities.
A statement from Lt. Jon Riley of the State Bureau of Investigation said the agency will be looking into the incident.
The off-duty Hoover police officer was not identified in the media statement.
According to Riley’s statement, Hoover police and fire responded at 1:53 a.m. Saturday to a call of a person being shot at a location on Village Center Street. Police found a 31-year-old woman with a gunshot wound to her arm. The woman was transported to UAB Hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
The woman’s husband, the off-duty police officer, call 911 [sic] and said he and his spouse were involved in a domestic incident and were wrestling over a handgun when it fired, according to the SBI statement.
The officer was detained by Hoover police until Jefferson County sheriff deputies arrived at the scene, the SBI said. The SBI said it also responded to the scene and will be the primary investigating agency.
The officer is being questioned by SBI agents.
Hoover police said in a statement that the officer will be placed on administrative leave pending outcome of the investigation.
Media shouldn’t be complicit in hiding things
Who writes this way? People who want to hide things. If I’m the reporter for Alabama.com, I write this very differently. I would then get fired, of course, but imagine an article that attempted to actually tell the truth here, starting by putting all statements in the active voice — including when you don’t know who the person acting is.
Woman shot after dispute with her husband, an off-duty Hoover police officer
A off-duty police officer and his wife had a dispute and wrestled over a handgun early Saturday morning. Somebody shot it, injuring the woman. Authorities won’t tell us who shot whom or the name of the officer.
After the shooting, the officer called 911. Hoover fire and police arrived at the house at Village Center Street and sent the woman, 31, to UAB hospital with non-life threatening injuries. Then Jefferson County sheriff deputies detained the officer and the State Bureau of Investigation showed up.
According to SBI Lt. Jon Riley, the SBI will question the officer and investigate the shooting. Hoover police put the officer on administrative leave.
Not only is that shorter, but it doesn’t force the reader to wonder about facts and missing information dribbled out one sentence at a time.
Don’t use passive voice as a habit — it annoys the reader. If you don’t know facts, say what you don’t know. There’s a story there, too.