You know what makes writing less trustworthy? The passive voice. This is because it doesn’t convey clearly what side the writer is on. Your substance could be amazing yet still fail to captivate the hearts and minds of readers because of its “passive” presentation.
Writing in the active voice isn’t rocket science. However, writers can get so lost in their own world that they don’t notice the passive voice creeping into their writing. That’s why it’s a good idea to use passive voice checkers to review your finished piece.
So, how does one write in the active voice? Plus, how do you shift from passive to active? The answers to these two questions and more are what we’ll discuss today, so you can learn how to write a cleaner and more honest piece.
What Is the Active Voice?
A sentence in the active voice puts emphasis on the subject doing the action. As such, it doesn’t beat around the bush but gets straight to the point of the sentence.
The active voice sends readers a direct, concise, and clear message, which makes it great for business writing. Business articles that aim to persuade the audience to do (or not do) something should have an active tone that conveys honesty and responsibility. After all, who wants to work or partner with a company that doesn’t know clearly what side it’s on?
The active voice arrangement goes as follows: subject, verb (action), and then the object. So, it’s all about the subject taking action on an object. It really is as simple as it reads.
Writing in the Active Voice
Academic writing will almost always lean towards the passive voice because of its more formal tone. There’s also an element of sophistication in the passive form lacking in the active form. Still, writers of non-fiction think they can take this route and have the same success.
Talking about facts “passively” shouldn’t make them untrue, right? Yes, it doesn’t. Do you know what it does make them, though? Weak. This is the last thing you want scientific articles to read like because they present information. And when information reads evasively, readers will question its authenticity.
When you write a story that actually happened, you want to do so strongly so that people enjoy reading it. You understand what we’re getting at, right? Remember those nights when you could barely keep your eyes open from reading a scientific piece swathed in passive writing? This is what we mean when we advise against constructing sentences in the passive voice. It’s just plain boring and unengaging.
So, how do you determine if a sentence is in the passive voice? And how do you turn a passive sentence into an active one?
Identifying the Passive Voice
Every once in a while (or more often than that), writers find themselves slipping into the nasty habit of incorporating the passive voice in their sentences. While that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it does make their writing sound weak and less convincing.
You want to take note of a few things indicative of passive writing:
1. The “By” Word
When the word “by” comes before the sentence’s subject, you’re looking at a passive sentence. Restructure your sentence so that the subject becomes the “star” and “by” fades away into the background.
2. Past Participle
The past participle may not always indicate passive voice use, but the passive form always entails the use of a verb’s past participle. Look for the passive form in sentences where the verbs used pertain to a completed action (as in planned, cooked, cried, was sad, etc.).
Shifting From Passive to Active
Changing an unconvincing passive sentence into a strong, active one mostly requires moving the subject to the beginning of the sentence. You then change the past participle of the verb to its appropriate form, given the sentence’s new structure.
Unless there’s a good reason you shouldn’t, stick to the active voice when writing your sentences. It allows you to deliver a clear, concise, and strong message, which is what the majority of the audience is after.
Why Use the Active Voice?
Quality writing isn’t about using sentences that stretch on and on; instead, it’s about making a point using the least number of words as you can. Now, that’s the mark of an experienced writer.
One of the best things about the active voice is it makes your sentences short and direct. It also takes a more conversational tone that readers love because it makes them feel like they’re talking to a friend.
Then, there’s the emotional impact of the active voice, which makes the reader feel like you’re right there with them as the scene unfolds.
Active Over Passive, Any Day
Well, maybe not any day, but definitely most of the time. Unless the passive voice serves your purpose better, which doesn’t happen too often in the world of writing, you want to stick to the clearer and more truthful active voice.