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Passive Voice in Legal Writing

Passive Voice in Legal Writing

Passive voice is a grammatical construction where the subject of a sentence receives the action of the verb, rather than performing the action. In passive voice, the focus is on the recipient of the action rather than the doer. In legal writing, the passive voice can serve several important functions:

Emphasising objectivity

The passive voice can be used to create an objective tone by distancing the writer from the action described. This can be particularly useful in legal writing, where objectivity is often prized.


The contract was signed by both parties.


Both parties signed the contract.

Focusing on the action rather than the actor

In legal writing, it may be more important to focus on the action being taken rather than who is taking the action. The passive voice can be used to shift the focus to the action.


The plaintiff was injured in the accident.


The defendant's negligence caused the plaintiff's injury.

Avoiding responsibility

While not always appropriate, the passive voice can be used in legal writing to avoid assigning blame or responsibility.


Mistakes were made.


We made mistakes.

Maintaining confidentiality

In legal writing, it may be necessary to protect the identities of individuals or organisations involved in a case. The passive voice can be used to avoid revealing sensitive information.


The settlement was reached between the parties.


The plaintiff and defendant reached a settlement.

It is important to use the passive voice judiciously and only when it serves a clear purpose in legal writing. Overuse of the passive voice can make writing less clear and less engaging.

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