Writing in Active Voice
Zombies may not still be trending like they were when “The Walking Dead” released, but they certainly are when it comes to writing in active voice. Zombies are the key to knowing if you’re writing this way. Don’t believe us? Check out this little trick.
If you can add “by zombies” to the end of a sentence, you are writing in passive voice. Think about it.
She was eaten by zombies.
Zombies ate her.
You clearly see the difference.
But why is the active vs. passive voice thing even important? This post explains.
Active vs. Passive Voice
To this point, we assumed that you know the difference between active and passive voice. But maybe you don’t. Perhaps your English teacher didn’t force you to diagram a bunch of sentences. If you know the difference, go ahead and skip this section. If not, let us explain.
Active voice means the sentence’s subject acts upon the verb. For example, The dog chased the cat. It’s short, simple, and direct.
Passive voice means a subject receives the verb’s action. For example, The cat was chased by the dog. With passive voice, you almost always end up with a longer verb and a prepositional phrase.
Make sense? Thank you for letting us play nerd with you.
Why Write in Active Voice?
Writing in active voice makes your writing stronger and more concise. Active voice also is more engaging to the reader because it’s more action-focused. Just look at the sentences above. It’s clear which one entices you more. It may even give you a visual, although… maybe that’s not a good thing in the zombie example.
Additional reasons to write in active voice include:
- Directness. Active voice makes your writing stronger and more direct.
- Clarity. It’s easy for the reader to understand who did what when you write in active voice.
- Concise. Active voice is more concise. It means that every word on the page has a purpose and your writing isn’t just a bunch of filler. It’s quick and easy to digest.
- Action. Active voice leads to using action verbs. Action verbs are more vibrant. They make the reader feel the words.
- Readability. Active voice is easier to read than passive voice.
- Persuasive. If you’re trying to persuade your reader to do something, active voice is the way to go. It’s far more compelling than passive voice.
5 Ways to Ensure You’re Writing in Active Voice
So the question isn’t whether you should write in active voice, but rather how to do it. It’s a bit tricky. Here are some ways you can review your copy to make sure it’s active, aside from the zombie trick.
1. Write in Sequence
Write in subject, verb, object order. If you do this, your writing is more likely to be active.
The dog ran through the field.
Through the field, the dog was running.
See the difference?
2. Use Action Verbs
Action verbs are active. If the verb ends in “ed” or “ing,” it’s probably not active. Rephrase those sentences.
The girl beat her brother in the race.
The girl was beating her brother in the race.
3. Search for Prepositional Phrases
As we wrote above, passive voice almost always requires a prepositional phrase. Search your writing for prepositional phrases. See if you need to rewrite those sentences.
4. Change the Subject
You can resolve a lot of passive voice issues by changing the subject. Let’s look at the last sentence as an example. It could have been: “Passive voice issues can be resolved by changing the subject.” Adding the “you” made the sentence active. This edit is common when rewriting sentences for active voice. Consider whether the words like administrators, officials, experts, etc. make the writing more active.
5. Use Grammarly
Ok, so this tip is a bit of a cheat, but it works. Run your writing through Grammarly. It doesn’t catch everything, and you should trust yourself more than its recommendations. But it will alert you if it thinks a sentence is passive. Then you can rephrase the sentence.
Content Journey Can Help!
We get that this post is super nerdy. That’s why we love it! But we also understand that not everyone wants to think about writing or how to do it best. If you understand the importance of content marketing but aren’t interested in writing, we’re here to help. Book a call! We’d love the opportunity to help you along your content journey.