Writers, bloggers, and marketing professionals are often told to write in an active voice. While there is nothing wrong with using the passive voice, most readers prefer the active voice for non-scientific content. Active voice sentences are typically shorter and less likely to create confusion than those written in the passive voice.
If you’re wondering how to write in an active voice, know that practice is the key. Start with your blog or marketing copy. Look for passive voice sentences and try to convert them to the active voice.
For example, would you prefer to say “The technician fixed my computer” or “My computer was fixed by the technician?” The first sentence sounds better, isn’t it? It’s shorter, easier to read, and highlights the logical flow of action.
But what’s the difference between the two from a reader’s standpoint? Does it matter when it comes to search engine optimization? Most importantly, when should you use the active voice and when to use passive voice sentences?
Let’s find out!
Active vs. Passive Voice
Medical journals, technical reports, and scientific studies typically use the passive voice. Mose sentences contain a form of “to be” followed by a past participle verb.
This structure emphasizes the object or person receiving the action. The active voice, on the other hand, emphasizes the object or person performing the action.
Most readers prefer the active voice over the passive voice—and so do the search engines. However, passive voice sentences have a role in oral and written communication.
For example, it’s recommended to use the passive voice when the performer is irrelevant or unknown, as in: “The house was built in 1965.” In this case, the name of the building company (the “performer”) is not relevant.
Likewise, you may use passive voice sentences when the performer is less important than the action, such as “The phone was charged for three hours.”
As far as non-technical writing goes, the active voice is your best bet. Active voice sentences are more dynamic and succinct and have a strong, direct tone. Here are a few examples:
- Children love this game.
- The dog chased the cat for hours.
- Most stores sell fish oil and other supplements rich in omega-3s.
These sentences have a basic structure: subject, verb, and object. Passive voice sentences, by comparison, start with the object followed by a passive verb. The preposition “by” typically precedes the subject.
Note that using the verb “to be” (in any form) doesn’t always constitute the passive voice.
For example, the sentence “Your kids are concerned about this problem” isn’t passive. “Are,” the plural form of the verb “to be,” is simply describing how they feel about a particular situation.
Why Is It Important to Use the Active Voice?
The active voice can make your writing more powerful and engaging. Plus, your readers won’t have to guess what you mean.
Active voice sentences clearly state the action being performed, which helps eliminate confusion. They also use concrete verbs, making it easier to communicate with your readers.
Passive verbs, by comparison, make your writing sound more formal. They may also give the impression that very little action is taking place. As a result, your brand story or blog posts will be less engaging.
When you use the active voice, your tone becomes more conversational and natural. This approach also evokes emotions, as in: “The criminals stole her purse and left her in tears.” Don’t you feel sorry for the character after reading this?
Depending on the context, the active voice may create a sense of urgency. Plus, it makes your sentences more concise and less wordy.
Need one more reason to use the active voice in your writing? Think about search engine optimization, or SEO.
Yoast and other SEO tools take into account the number of passive verbs as part of their readability analysis. A blog post, article, or website page that overuses the passive voice will be more difficult to read and understand. As a result, it may affect your SEO efforts, as well as the message you want to convey.
Passive voice sentences are more complex and hence require more cognitive effort than those using the active voice. Your readers may lose interest or find the text ambiguous.
As a rule of thumb, you should try to get your point across in as few words as possible. That’s where the active voice can make all the difference.
Learn How to Write in an Active Voice
Writing in the active voice is easier than you think. First, check your content for passive voice sentences. Pay attention to the following aspects:
- Sentences and phrases that include the “by” clause
- The subject is not explicitly stated
- Forms of the verb “to be,” such as “have been,” “was,” or “where”
- Past participle verbs, such as those ending in “-ed”
Always focus on who the subject is.
In an active sentence, the subject is the person or object performing the action, as in: “The tourists polluted the lake.” If you say “The lake was polluted by tourists,” that’s a passive voice sentence.
Sometimes, you may need to read the entire paragraph or text to identify the subject. If the subject is somewhat anonymous, you may use a general term like “people,” “scientists,” or “they” when switching to the active voice. The overall message should remain unchanged.
No one expects you to write an entire page in the active voice. The key is to figure out where you should use active voice sentences and where it’s preferable to switch to the passive voice.
Make Your Writing More Engaging and Concise
Whether you’re a published author, blogger, or marketer, there is always room for improvement. Start by learning how to write in an active voice. Think of it as a simple, effective way to make your content more engaging.
Remember that practice makes it perfect. Join our team to hone your writing skills and build a meaningful career! If you’re a business owner, sign up on our platform to hire top talent.