In every writing class or book about writing, it says: Avoid passive voice. (Passive voice is when you don’t identify the person or thing doing the action. It’s considered lazy and imprecise, everything that recipe writing is not.)
I do my best to remove it when I edit. Yet I read dozens of published recipe instructions like this in prestigious publications and award-winning cookbooks:
- Cook until all of the broth has been added.
- Roast until the beets are tender and can be pierced with a knife.
These are examples of passive voice because readers don’t know who is taking action. Um, wouldn’t it be them? Why not speak to them directly? If I changed these instructions to active voice, they would read like this:
- Cook until you’ve added all the broth.
- Roast until the beets are tender and you can pierce them with a knife.
Apparently this is wrong. Why are we not to identify the reader directly? Why would you want to use passive language to describe an activity?
I have pondered these questions about passive voice in recipe writing for years. Can you enlighten me?