The passive voice, while traditionally thought of as contributing to an overall objective tone in academic writing, by means of either deleting or deemphasizing the subject within a sentence, can also be used to reveal writer stance. Stance refers to the ways in which writers reveal their opinions, evaluations and feelings on a given matter and passive voice has a role to play in this regard, despite its association with objectivity, which might suggest the opposite. This article begins by discussing the area of writer stance, to include the approach which is taken here, one which incorporates passives. This is followed by a discussion explaining how stance is revealed through use of passives, followed by examples taken from the essays of three undergraduate students - Janet, Colette and Gladys - in the School of Education at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom. The overall aim of this paper is to demonstrate that passive stance is a rhetorical reality and, from the analysis of the students' written work, it is seen that passive voice can in fact be a subtle way for writers to reveal themselves within their essays. © 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.