Do you write content using active voice?

Last updated by Jayden Alchin [SSW] 6 months ago.See history

Write in a way that is compelling, engaging, and direct to get the most out of your content. The secret to this is using an active voice.

What is active voice?

Active voice follows the pattern subject -> action -> object. It shows the subject is actively performing an action. This is the opposite of passive voice, where the subject recieves the action instead: object -> action -> subject.

Below are some examples:

When the CD is inserted, a Windows dialog will be shown.

Figure: Bad Example - Passive voice leads the reader down a winding path

Windows shows a dialog when you insert a CD.

Figure: Good Example - Active voice is more direct and engaging

An easy way to tell if you're using the passive voice is to add "by zombies" after the verb (i.e. the action). If your sentence still makes sense, you're using passive voice. 

The email was sent (by zombies).

Figure: Bad example - Passive voice

Zombies sent the email. 

Figure: Good example - Now that's an engaging sentence

Why avoid passive voice?

  • It uses more words. In the figures above, the "Bad examples" are notably longer than the "Good examples"
  • It's less impactful. Instead of having the subject make an action, the subject recieves the action
  • It obscures the subject. In the bad examples above, you don't know who or what you're reading about until the end of the sentence. With active voice, you know immediately
  • It's formal and detached. Passive voice makes your writing feel detached and objective. This can be a useful tool but leads to less engaging content.

One is not inherently better than the other. But if you want to create clear, direct, and punchy content - active voice is the answer. In conclusion:

Do you (subject) write (action) content (object) using active voice?

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