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The Power of Active Voice
Active voice vs passive voice: which is which? What's the difference and why does it matter?
In active voice, the subject of the sentence performs the action. For example, “John hit the ball.”
In passive voice, the subject is receiving the action instead of doing it. For example, “the ball was hit by John.”
While both voices have their place in writing, using active voice leads to clear and concise sentences that engage readers more easily because active voice helps establish a stronger connection between the subject and verb in a sentence.
This stronger connection makes it easier for readers to understand who (or what) is performing an action and enables them to visualize it more vividly. If you want your writing to be effective and impactful, using active voice is essential.
With active voice, you can avoid unnecessary confusion and ambiguity while conveying your message in a straightforward manner that resonates with your audience.
And it's not just beneficial for writing your books; freelance writing, blog writing, copywriting, and content writing all benefit from active voice.
So let's dig in and see how active voice stacks up against passive voice and what the differences are.
Benefits of Using Active Voice
Using active voice in writing can help improve the clarity and impact of your message. One of the primary benefits is that it makes writing more clear and concise.
This is because active voice places the subject of the sentence at the forefront, making it clear who or what is performing the action. For example, "the dog chased the ball" is a simple sentence written in active voice that clearly conveys who did what.
In contrast, "the ball was chased by the dog" is a longer, more cumbersome sentence written that takes some effort for readers to unpack.
Another benefit of using active voice is that it increases reader engagement. When readers can easily identify who or what is doing something in a sentence, they are better able to visualize and connect with what's happening. This creates a stronger emotional connection between the reader and the content being presented.
Active voice also helps to convey a sense of urgency or action, as opposed to passive voice which can sometimes feel stagnant or dull. Take, for example, "John slammed into me," vs the phrase "I was slammed into by John."
Using active voice helps avoid ambiguity and confusion in your writing.
Passive voice can sometimes leave room for interpretation (or misinterpretation) since it obscures who or what performed an action. Active voice eliminates these potential issues by clearly identifying who did what in each sentence.
It also reduces wordiness which further improves clarity since you don't have to add extra words like "by" when trying to indicate who performed an action (as you would with passive voice). All these things combined mean your message comes across loud and clear when you use active over passive voice!
Examples of Active vs Passive Voice
When it comes to writing, the choice between active and passive voice can have a huge impact on the clarity and effectiveness of your message. Let's take a look at some examples of sentences written in both voices to see how they compare.
Passive: The cake was eaten by the dog.
Active: The dog ate the cake.
In this example, switching from passive to active voice not only makes the sentence shorter, but it also makes it clearer who or what is doing the action.
By putting the subject (the dog) before the verb (ate), we immediately know who is responsible for eating the cake. In contrast, in passive voice, we have to wait until the end of the sentence to find out who did what.
Passive: The report was written by John.
Active: John wrote the report.
Similarly, in this example, active voice not only results in a shorter sentence but also makes it more clear who performed the action. Passive voice puts emphasis on what was done rather than who did it, leading to ambiguity.
By using active voice and putting "John" as subject at beginning of sentence accurately conveys that he is responsible for writing report. Overall, using active voice ensures that sentences are clear and direct – something that can greatly improve both readability and engagement with your audience.
Active Voice Improves Clarity and Flow
Active voice plays an important role in improving clarity and flow in writing. When you write in active voice, you're able to convey information more clearly because subjects come before verbs.
As a result, readers are able to quickly understand who or what is performing an action without having to read through lengthy sentences or unnecessary words. Using active voice also creates a sense of movement within your writing which helps keep readers engaged throughout your piece.
Sentences written this way tend towards being shorter which makes them easier to read, and as a result, keep the readers interested. They are able to understand and process what is happening in the sentence quickly and can continue reading without getting distracted.
In addition, active voice emphasizes ownership which increases accountability. By using active voice, it becomes clear who is responsible for taking action or making decisions.
This allows readers to easily identify who should be held accountable for certain actions that have been made. Using Active Voice does not only improve clarity but also adds an element of interest by having sentences flowing smoothly from one point to another making the article more engaging and memorable.
Common Mistakes with Passive Voice
Passive voice is a common writing mistake that can make your writing seem dull and uninteresting. Overusing passive voice can also cause your sentences to become longer and more convoluted than necessary.
One of the most common mistakes with passive voice is simply using it too much. This can happen when writers are trying to sound more formal or technical, but the result is often a dry and difficult-to-read text.
Another mistake with passive voice is using it incorrectly. Passive voice should only be used when the object of an action is more important than the subject, or when you want to avoid placing blame on someone.
For example, “The window was broken by the ball” uses passive voice correctly because it emphasizes the broken window rather than who broke it. On the other hand, “The ball was thrown by John” uses passive voice incorrectly because it doesn’t make sense to emphasize the object (the ball) over the subject (John).
How to Identify Passive Voice in Your Writing Identifying passive voice in your writing can be tricky if you’re not sure what to look for.
One way to do this is by looking for forms of “to be” followed by a past participle (such as “was broken”). Another clue that you may be using passive voice is if you’re not sure who or what did the action in your sentence.
One way to fix these mistakes is by flipping the sentence around so that the subject becomes clear and active. For example, instead of saying “The cake was baked by my sister,” try saying “My sister baked a cake.” This makes your sentence much clearer and easier for readers to follow along with.
Overall, identifying and avoiding common mistakes with passive voice will help improve your writing style and clarity. Remember that active voice should be used whenever possible, unless there’s a specific reason why passive voice is necessary.
Tips for Writing in Active Voice
Use strong verbs instead of weak ones
One of the key aspects of writing in active voice is using strong, powerful verbs. Verbs are the backbone of any sentence, and by using vivid and descriptive verbs, you can make your writing more engaging and dynamic.
For example, consider the following sentence: "The ball was thrown by John." This sentence is written in passive voice and lacks impact. However, by rephrasing it to "John threw the ball," you not only switch to active voice but also use a stronger verb that conveys action and energy.
When choosing your verbs, try to avoid weak or vague ones like "is," "are," or "have." Instead, opt for specific action words that help paint a picture in the reader's mind. This will make your writing more interesting and keep your readers engaged.
Keep sentences short and simple
Another tip for writing in active voice is to keep your sentences short and straightforward. Long, complex sentences can be confusing for readers and dilute the impact of your message.
Instead, aim for concise sentences that get straight to the point. This will help emphasize the action taking place in each sentence and create a more impactful narrative.
For instance, compare these two examples: - Passive: The book was read by her last night before going to bed.
- Active: She read the book before going to bed last night. By simplifying this sentence with shorter syntax as well as shifting from passive voice to active voice improves its clarity greatly!
Avoid unnecessary words or phrases
In order to write effectively in active voice, it's important to eliminate any unnecessary words or phrases that can detract from your message. This includes filler words like "that" or "just" that add no real value but clutter up your writing. For example, consider these two sentences:
- Passive: It is important that you remember to turn off the lights. - Active: Remember to turn off the lights.
The second sentence is both shorter and more impactful than the first, demonstrating how removing extraneous words can make your writing more powerful. By following these tips and practicing writing in active voice, you can improve your communication skills and create more compelling content that resonates with your audience.
When to Use Passive Voice
Passive voice is often frowned upon in most writing because it can be seen as weak or vague, but there are certain situations where using passive voice may be appropriate or even preferred.
For example, if you want to emphasize the object of a sentence rather than the action, a passive voice will be the way to do that. For instance, "The building was destroyed by an earthquake" emphasizes that something significant happened (the destruction of a building) without focusing too much on who caused it. Another time to use passive voice would be when the subject is either unknown or less important than the recipient of the action.
Scientific writing also tends to be done in passive voice to emphasize the process or results of an experiment without drawing too much attention to the researcher who conducted it.
When discussing historical events or facts that are widely accepted as truth, passive voice loses some of that weak sound. For example, "The Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4th" uses passive voice but still conveys a clear message without feeling weak. The active voice counter part, "56 people signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4th," doesn't sound any stronger or clearer (although it does pull some of the focus off the event and onto the 56 signers).
And, of course, passive voice is often used when someone is trying to avoid blame or responsibility. For example, if a company experiences a product recall, they may use passive voice in their statement to avoid directly pointing fingers at any specific individual or department within the company. This can also be useful in other sensitive situations such as discussing medical errors or accidents where assigning blame could cause undue stress or harm.
The point is that, as with most other writing rules, passive voice is something that should be avoided (hehe) when it's appropriate to avoid it, but there are plenty of times when it should be used. So rather than pulling out your hair when Grammarly or ProWriting Aid are warning you about active voice vs passive voice in your writing, take a moment to decide whether or not active voice would actually perform better for that sentence.
Final Thoughts on Active Voice vs Passive Voice
Using active voice is often touted as one of the most important pieces of writing advice that authors absolutely had to follow, right up there with show don't tell. Active voice allows for simpler, more concise sentences that are easy to follow. The benefits of using active voice cannot be overstated, as it increases reader engagement and helps to avoid ambiguity in your writing.
However, there are some situations where passive voice is be more appropriate. It's all about finding the right balance between the two voices and using them appropriately based on the context of your writing.
Overall, by consistently using active voice in your writing, you'll be able to craft clearer and more engaging pieces that will captivate your readers from beginning to end. So don't be afraid to edit and rewrite until you achieve that perfect balance between active and passive voices!