“Let’s do this!” could be a rallying cry for writing in the active, rather than passive, voice. In children’s books, this is especially important because young readers have little patience for … BORING! They want to be drawn into and thus involved, engaged and excited by a story. And the active voice ensures this.

In the simplest terms, “Billy ate the entire plate of cookies” is a lot more exciting, clear, clean and on-point than, “The entire plate of cookies was eaten by Billy.” In the active voice, our protagonist Billy is the subject of the sentence and he “acts” – by eating the entire plate of cookies. “Billy ate the entire plate of cookies” leaves the reader with images – perhaps of Billy smiling, with cookie crumbs festooning his mouth, while also holding his tummy, indicating rumblings and upset within.

In the second sentence, in the passive voice, “The entire plate of cookies was eaten by Billy,” we’re left with no real images of the scene because Billy is no longer the subject. The entire plate of cookies becomes the subject, upon which Billy acted. The reader is left with unanswered questions, such as, “When did Billy eat the entire plate of cookies?” “How long ago?” “Did he eat them so long ago that he’s just fine now…?” (which isn’t very interesting and leaves us wondering why we should care that Billy ate all those cookies).

Active voice creates cleaner, clearer, more direct, dramatic and thus interesting sentences than the passive voice, which can be a big vague. And dialogue is a great way to “get active” as well. For example:

            “’Let’s do this!!” Billy said, eyeing the plate of cookies,” is far more fun and active than “Billy and his pals sat in the kitchen, discussing whether or not they should eat the plate of cookies left by his mother on the countertop.” (Count the number of passive voice constructs in that sentence!)

Passive voice constructions can, however, be used to good effect if a character is trying to hide something or not take responsibility for something (like politicians, for example), or if you’re trying to establish a bit of mystery in a scene. For example:.

             “Someone ate the entire plate of cookies,” Billy told his mom.


            “Billy’s mom walked into the kitchen and saw the empty plate on the counter. ‘Goodness, what happened to the cookies?’ she wondered aloud.”

Thus, in general, “Do it!” and use the active voice as much as possible in writing for young readers to keep your story alive and your readers excited to turn the page.