An important factor that holds your readers’ attention from the get-go is the voice your article/book/post is written in. Readers prefer active voice sentences and writing in the active voice communicates our message effectively. The active voice makes your writing stronger, less wordy and tiresome. It clearly identifies an action and who is performing that action.
On the other hand, writing in the passive voice which is a common mistake that could easily slip into your writing fails to hold your readers’ interest and simply makes your writing boring and hard to read.
Mastering the skill of writing in the active voice is easier than you anticipated and less tedious than finding those little grammatical errors and typos. One way to know if you are writing in the active or passive voice is to find the subject of the sentence and decide if the subject is doing the action or being acted upon.
How to Recognize and Eliminate Passive Voice
In the active voice, your subject is doing the action.
- Jake ran past the man.
- Susan cooked the food.
In the passive voice, the subject is acted upon.
- The man was run past by Jake.
- The food was cooked by Susan.
Reading these two sentences you know that it doesn’t sound natural or seem right.
Another easy giveaway of the passive voice is to look for verbs stuck together. A passive voice adds other helping verbs such as ‘to be, being, has been, will be, are, is, was, were’ to a verb that could stand alone.
You can instantly fix your passive voice by rewriting your sentence so that the subject of your sentence comes before the verb.
Your active voice resembles spoken language. When we speak, we automatically speak in the active voice and our writing should mirror this.
For instance, you would never say:
My bicycle (subject) was ridden (action) to the park by me.
Instead, you would say:
I (subject) rode (action) my bicycle (object) to the park.
As always there’s an exception to the rule where the passive voice is preferable:
When the subject acted upon is more important than the doer and when we do not know who performed the action.
The city centre was bombed today.
Since the doer is either unknown and unimportant, in the sentence your focus is on the city centre. In this case, the passive voice adds an impact to the sentence.
Also, writers oftentimes fill in the gaps with redundant and unnecessary words thereby making their documents hard-to-read. Use simple terms to help quicker understanding.
Instead of this Say this
True facts True
Make a decision Decide
Your aim is to make your writing as clear and as concise as possible, as well as an enjoyable experience for your reader.