I've been reading a few OSR blogs and their discussions of writing. All of these are helpful in one way or another but the advice should be considered just that - advice. The same goes with my thoughts below. Take it all with a grain of salt. This isn't a manifesto, rather it is just a personal reflection with the intent of helping people who are interested. Active voice/passive voice is my bag - so I'll spend most of my time focusing on that subject.
I've taught first year students at university for 10 years now. Teaching undergrads means teaching them to write from the ground up. You have to get them to look in the mirror and acknowledge their bad habits. Of course, nobody likes to look in the mirror but that's part of the process of learning the craft. At one point in time, all good writers were taken aside (and repeatedly taken to task) for their writing - it's just how good writers are made. I also believe that writing is a life-long learning skill and best taught in a mentorship-style. Reading "how to write" from a book is only valuable to a point. Also, good writers possess range - they understand writing conventions across fields and can thus tweak their language and structure to suit the needs of the medium. My learners get these messages in regular doses.
In my classes, I focus on formal structured writing - so formal argumentative essays are the order of the day. This means I need to teach the concept of authorial voice. Formal writing, in my view, requires an active voice sentence structure. What is active voice? We use active voice to sound more authoritative and confident by ensuring each sentence has a subject at the beginning, an action word or verb, and a thing (or object acted upon). This style is also referred to as SVO (or subject, verb, object) and is the basic sentence structure of the English language.
This style stands in contrast to passive voice which normally positions the subject at the end of the sentence.
Active Voice: The troll built the bridge.
Passive Voice: The bridge was built by the troll (or sometimes) The bridge was built.
The above are basic examples that serve to illustrate the point. The active voice sentence contains only five words and reads in a more authoritative fashion because we located the subject at the beginning. The passive voice sentence contains seven words and is less authoritate because the reader doesn't learn about the subject until the end of the sentence. Even worse, the third example has no subject at all.
Let me guess - some of you just said "Big-friken deal. You cut two words!"
My response: You cut two words from that sentence, made it more concise, and made it more authoritative. Now extrapolate that example over an eight sentence paragraph. How many words did you just cut and say exactly the same thing? Now extrapolate that paragraph over one page, two pages, five pages, and then over an entire manuscript. How many needless words did you cut from your writing? Exactly. In this new, strong, active form your writing will leap off the page, rather than sitting as dead letter.
So now that we understand the purpose of active voice we need a toolset to find passive voice in your writing. This is the simple part. Passive voice results from the overuse of the most overused verb in the English language - the verb "to be". So we need to conjugate the verb. When we do that - in various tenses - we get the following words "was, am, be, is, were, are, been, being".
So go examine a piece of your writing for these words. Use of these results in a passive voice construction. Experience has taught me that you have either left out the subject, or you have the subject at the end of your sentence. There are other possible reasons, but those, in my experience, are the two most common errors.
In a game-publishing context writing in active voice isn't critical. Would I recommend it? Sure. It is helpful, but the medium doesn't really require a formal voice. In contrast, my academic book "Hunting for Empire" required it - you would be lucky to find 5 passive voice constructions in over 60,000 words.
If I were to offer constructive help, I'd suggest the following: avoid double-negatives that give people ice-cream headaches, avoid starting sentences with conjunctions, avoid using "it" instead of a proper noun, avoid contractions, and avoid run-on sentences (one thought = one sentence).
Everybody you ask will have a slightly different opinion - and that's ok. If you are writing for fun, you need to decide what works for you. For my part, writing is an art not a science. There are habits that result in good writing and habits that are less good - but no objective measure exists. It takes practice and, in my opinion, a good mentor (Thank you, Nancy B).
Let me know if this post was valuable or not in the comments or if you have any questions.