From Sherry Roberts’s 11 Ways to Improve Your Writing and Your Business, in the 7th way, “Be Active”:
A sentence written in the active voice is the straight-shooting sheriff who faces the gunslinger proudly and fearlessly. It is honest, straightforward; you know where you stand.
Active: The committee will review all applications in early April.
A sentence written in passive voice is the shifty desperado who tries to win the gunfight by shooting the sheriff in the back, stealing his horse, and sneaking out of town.
Passive: In early April, all applications will be reviewed by the committee.
In truth, the passive is very often exactly the right way to frame a clause in a particular context, and all competent authors use passives frequently. The people who recommend against it use it themselves, even while talking about how you should not use it. For example, in the act of explaining that you should “Use the active voice” because it is “more direct and vigorous than the passive”, William Strunk and E. B. White assert that “Many a tame sentence . . . can be made lively and emphatic by substituting a transitive in the active voice” (see section 14 of their book The Elements of Style). Their sentence defies their warning; it contains an instance of the passive voice itself (can be made lively and emphatic). They then proceed to give four examples together with illustrations of how to improve them “by substituting a transitive in the active voice”, but only one illustrates the passive (it is not quite clear whether they thought all four were passives), and for one of them, At dawn the crowing of a rooster could be heard, they propose the replacement The cock’s crow came with dawn, which (since came is intransitive) does not have a transitive in the active voice!
Both links above eventually fight in favor of the much-abused passive voice. Is passive voice evil? If you believe English teachers and style books, you will say (at least) that passive voice is weak and active voice is strong. …but are they correct?
I would argue that passive voice is a useful tool in writing, but it needs to be used sparingly. (Ah-ha!) If passive voice was good enough for the Holy Spirit in both Greek and Hebrew, it’s good enough for me in English.
An author does need to be intentional in using the passive voice. He should use it in such a way to stress the receiver of an action or to heighten tension. He could use it to convey powerlessness. Or, perhaps it can be used simply to offer variety.
Of course, I suspect others will disagree! (Go ahead, comment. Let’s talk!)