Ditch the Passive and Write in an ‘Active Voice’ for Engaging Online Content

To be a successful writer it is important to have an understanding of the subject you are writing on, as well as the intended audience. Unfortunately or fortunately (depending on how you see it), as a digital content writer you are often not given a clear understanding of the target reader.

Unless specifically told to write in a particular manner or for a certain demographic, the important thumb rule to follow in writing digital content is this – KISS or keep it simple silly 🙂 .

This is not to say that you are writing for idiots, far from it. However, the writing must be clear, concise, with judicious use of headers, sub-headers to draw in the ‘cursory reader’ and convince them to spend time reading your material.

In the past I have shared my understanding of writing effective text for email campaigns , internet article headers , and general tips on writing for the web.

One internet-writing tip that runs common regardless of the content you are writing is to use active voice rather than passive voice.

Understanding Active Voice

Here is the simplest explanation of active versus passive voice.

In an active sentence, the ‘subject’ is performing the action, whereas in a passive sentence the ‘recipient of the action’ becomes the subject. Refer these  examples below (with the ‘subject action’ underlined)

passive activeExample 1:

John loves Rita. (Active)

Rita is loved by John. (Passive)

Example 2:

The cat ate the mouse. (Active).

The mouse was eaten by the cat. (Passive)

Example 3:

Her lack of discipline is the main reason for defaulting on the loan. (Active)

The reason she defaulted on the loan was because she was not disciplined. (Passive)

Why write in active voice

Passive sentences require more words to express the same thought, in a somewhat circumambulatory manner.  While that may serve the purpose when writing a novel, drafting a customer service communiqué or a political speech, when writing for the internet the language needs to be a more direct, easy to understand and quick to read.

Research also indicates that in general, people find it easier to read text that is in active rather than passive voice.

MS Word Grammar Check for Passive Sentences

At times, I have struggled with re-wording sentences for an ‘active tone’ than a passive tone. Thank God, for grammar check feature of MS Word; it highlights passive sentences as you write, making it so much easier to correct the copy.

To activate the option of ‘passive sentence check’, click on the Microsoft oval symbol on the top left-hand corner of the word document and select ‘word options’. Then select – proofing > writing style > settings> select all the relevant proofing options, including passive sentences.

For more information, read this extremely helpful article on QuickandDirtyTips.com  .

That is the internet-writing tip of the month folks.

As the winter chills sets in, stay active and write ‘active’!

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5 thoughts on “Ditch the Passive and Write in an ‘Active Voice’ for Engaging Online Content

  1. arun kakkar says:

    Hi Rhea, What would be more active: This is a very piquant piece of writing. Or You have written a piquant piece. Very thought provoking, nonetheless. God Bless A K Kakkar

    Date: Tue, 10 Dec 2013 14:15:52 +0000 To: akkakkar@hotmail.com

    Like

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