English major or not, there’s a big difference between active and passive voice and how it reads. You may not know you’re reading (or writing) in passive voice, but it plays out in how your clients understand the text. And passive voice can be clunky and unnecessarily wordy.
Your audience is busy and doesn’t want to have to weed through jargon or try to translate long-winded copy. Do them a favor and provide text that’s short, sweet and to the point.
In passive voice, the subject of the sentence is inactive. For example, “The presentation was given by Susan.” Susan is actually performing the action in the sentence, however the focus of the sentence is on the presentation. Which I’m sure was good, but let’s give Susan some credit!
Active voice gives credit where it is due. “Susan gave the presentation.” Susan is the subject, doing the action, and has the proper position at the beginning of the sentence.
What’s the Big Deal?
Researchers and scholars often use passive voice in academic papers because it helps the author avoid using first person. But in reality, passive voice is less definitive. It’s not a strong way to talk about your business or your products and services. And, really, you might put your audience to sleep!
When you’re writing, whether it’s for your website, your blog or simply a business email, reread your text to make sure you’re writing in active voice. An easy cheat: If you can add “by zombies” to the action of your sentence, it’s passive voice.
“It was determined (by zombies) that the idea would not fly.” Better: Sam determined the idea would not fly.
“The ticket was given (by zombies) to me.” Better: Sam gave me the ticket.
Sometimes it’s not possible to avoid passive voice, but do your readers a favor and avoid it if you can!