As you read the following passage, identify which sentences use the passive voice well and which use the passive voice ineffectively. Revise any ineffective sentences. The sentences have been numbered to aid in your comments:
(1) Franklin Ramón Chang Díaz is a veteran of seven Space Shuttle missions, making him a shared record holder for the highest number of spaceflights. (2) Chang Díaz was born in San José, Costa Rica, on April 5, 1950, to Ramón Ángel Chang Morales and María Eugenia Díaz Romero. (3) He attended school in Costa Rica until 1967 when he moved to the United States to finish his high school education. (4) The University of Connecticut, where a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering was earned in 1973, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where a Doctor of Science in applied plasma physics was earned in 1977, were attended by Chang Díaz.
(5) Chang Díaz was selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in 1980, and he first flew aboard Space Shuttle mission STS-61-C in 1986. (6) He went on six other missions between 1989 and 2002. (7) During his final mission, three spacewalks with Philippe Perrin as part of the construction of the International Space Station were performed by Chang Díaz. (8) He then worked as the director of the Advanced Space Propulsion Laboratory at the Johnson Space Center from 1993 to 2005.
(9) Chang Díaz retired from NASA in 2005 to set up the Ad Astra Rocket Company, which became dedicated to the development of advanced plasma rocket propulsion technology. (10) Years of research and development have produced the VASIMR (Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket), an electrical propulsion device for use in space. (11) With a flexible mode of operation, the rocket can achieve very high exhaust speeds, and it even has the theoretical capability to take a manned rocket to Mars in 39 days.
There are five passive sentences in this passage: sentences 2, 4, 5, 7, and 10. Let’s look at each sentence individually.
- Sentence 2 is an effective use of the passive voice. We want to focus on Chang Díaz; using the passive places him as the subject of the sentence, creating this emphasis.
- Sentence 4 not an effective use of the passive voice. Putting this in passive makes the sentence very complicated and difficult to understand. The active voice lends itself to a much more understandable sentence:
- He went on to attend the University of Connecticut, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering in 1973, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he earned a Doctor of Science in applied plasma physics in 1977.
- Sentence 5 is an effective use of the passive voice. Once again, we want to focus on Chang Díaz, so having him as the subject in a passive sentence is a great way to do that.
- Sentence 7 not an effective use of the passive voice. We want to focus on Chang Díaz, so he should be the subject of the sentence. In this case, that means we should use the active voice:
- During his final mission, Chang Díaz performed three spacewalks with Philippe Perrin as part of the construction of the International Space Station.
- Sentence 10 is an effective use of the passive voice. We want to focus on the research and development, not on the people who completed the research. Additionally, it would be difficult to pin down exactly who completed all of the research and development, so using the passive voice to omit the actor of the sentence is helpful here.