Paradise was paved and a parking lot was
put up. The sheriff was shot by me. Sounds odd and awkward,
doesn’t it? How popular would Joni Mitchell’s, “Big Yellow Taxi” or Eric
Clapton’s, “I Shot the Sheriff” be if they had been written in the passive
voice? Chances are neither would have had much air play. Yet, many writers
continue to pepper their writing with clumsy and wordy sentences.
To Be or Not To Be
As in the examples above, the subjects are being acted upon. The boy was bit by the dog. The door was opened by the man. The experiments were conducted by scientists. Passive sentences typically use a verb phrase of the verb to be. Writers often drop the by in the
passive voice, which leaves the reader wondering who or what was performing the
action. Songs were sung and games were won, but who sang and won them?
Active Voice Gets to the Point Quickly
Active voice is about actors performing actions. The subject is performing the action.
It’s preferable to write in an active voice because that makes for more interesting content. Otherwise, readers won’t move past the first sentence.
This isn’t only true for fiction writing. Article writing needs to be
informative, concise and to the point.
It’s often necessary to stick to a specific word count when writing an article.
Writing in the active voice practically forces writers to conserve word usage.
Sentences written in active voice get to the point quickly, and are a better
way to get your message across to the reader. Reading an article written in
passive voice can sometimes make readers wonder if the writer was simply trying
to reach a word count goal.
Grab the Reader’s Attention and Keep It
While you may not necessarily want everything you write to sound clipped and to be as
cold as an instructional manual, you do want to present information in as few
words as possible. There are thousands of articles on the web competing for
views and most people don’t have time to wade through a wordy article.
Active Voice Is More Easily Understood
When you have something to say you want to be understood. A grammar study,
conducted in July 2010, showed that some people have a difficult time
understanding sentences written in passive voice. Writing content that is
easily understandable by the majority of readers means more views and exposure
for your writing.
Check Your Voice With Word
Many writers are unaware that they’re writing in passive voice. The simplest way to
be sure your writing is not suffering from passivity is to write a draft in Word and turn on the grammar & style settings from the proofing options menu. Word will automatically alert you when you’ve used passive voice. Word will not suggest alternatives.
Relying on grammar checkers has its limitations. Proofreading an article for typos as
well as passive voice is important. If you can say the same thing with fewer
words then do it. Use active verbs to make your writing more vivid and readers
more interested in what you have to say.