“Mistakes were made.” “Prepaid fees will be placed in trust.” “It is suggested that the null hypothesis can be rejected.”
The passive voice has long been dismissed as a hallmark of turgid prose. “Many a tame sentence,” wrote Strunk and White in The Elements of Style, “can be made lively and emphatic by substituting a transitive in the active voice for some such perfunctory expression as there is, or could be heard.” George Orwell, in “Politics and the English Language,” agreed: among the “tricks by means of which the work of prose construction is habitually dodged” is that “the passive voice is wherever possible used in preference to the active.”
But did you notice something about these advisories? They use the passive to bad-mouth the passive. This hypocrisy reminds us that prohibition is bad policy. No construction could have survived for millennia if it did not serve a purpose.
The passive is a voice: a means of expressing who did what to whom. In the active voice, the doer is the subject: Squirrels ate my birdseed. In the passive, the done-to is the subject—My birdseed was eaten—and the doer is an oblique object (… by squirrels) or omitted altogether. The verb changes to a participle (eat becomes eaten), which must be introduced by a form of be or get, or lurk in a subordinate clause (Stung by the review, he never wrote again).