I am a blogger recently started blogging in English. I generally use a proofreader to check my writing errors and it usually gets to this:

I deserve to be known as the guy I am.

What is wrong with this sentence? My proofreader always underline this "to be" and asks me to use active voice instead of passive.

I have no idea why using a passive voice over active is a problem.

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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because you're asking us to tell you what is wrong with a sentence that has nothing wrong with it. Aug 5, 2016 at 8:14
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    I think "proofreader" means an automated tool, such as the grammar checker of Word. I know the sentence is well formed. But it is reasonable to ask why it is being flagged as a writing error.
    – James K
    Aug 5, 2016 at 8:26
  • My proofreader underlined "to be" in the sentence (and many other sentences with same "to be") and it tells me that I should not use passive words as it is not very "reader's friendly". Is it really a passive sentence? Aug 5, 2016 at 8:41
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    That's the kind of context you need to provide from the beginning. You already knew there was an issue regarding the passive voice, so you should have asked whether or not the sentence was passive, not "what's wrong?" or "why is my proofreader doing this?" Please be more careful in the future.
    – Em.
    Aug 5, 2016 at 8:45
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1 Answer 1


There is nothing grammatically wrong.

Some style guides suggest that the active voice is preferred over the passive, when both are possible (example). So "I performed an experiment" is stylistically better than "An experiment was performed"

This guide is probably a response to the overuse of the passive voice in some technical literature when the author is trying to sound objective, but ends up sounding dull. Allen Downey (an author of computer science books) has written a short essay about this.

The grammar checker in Word in particular declared war on the passive voice, flagging it as if it were a grammatical error, which it is not. The grammar checker from earlier versions of Word was known to be fragile. It allowed some incorrect grammar to pass, while flagging stylistic things like the passive voice. I understand that it has improved.

It is possible to configure the grammar checker to allow the passive voice, or you can ignore the warning.

  • Thank you. That was the answer I was looking for. I overused this as you mentioned and ended up with a dull article. Aug 5, 2016 at 8:43
  • Computer grammar checkers are very good at spotting the passive voice, but not very good at suggesting alternatives, let alone better ones. Perhaps the only possible active voice alternative is 'I deserve that people know me as the guy I am'. This is not an improvement. In fact, it's possibly not English.
    – Sydney
    Aug 5, 2016 at 11:00

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