“What is passive voice and why are we often told to avoid it?” novelist and Writer’s Workshop Senior Editor Emma Darwin asks her students. Here’s Darwin’s simple explanation:
- When the action of the sentence is being performed by the subject of the sentence, it’s in active voice.
- When the action is being done to the subject of the sentence by someone or something else, the sentence is in passive voice.
In general, explains Brandon Royal in The Little Red Writing Book, the active voice is preferred, because it is:
- more action oriented
- more direct
- less verbose, cutting down on the number of needed words.
Since one of the very purposes of business blog writing is to showcase the accomplishments of the business owners, as a general rule we bloggers need to focus on “staying active” in our content using sentences that have energy and directness.
Is there ever a time when the passive voice would be the most effective way to write? Yes, when the performer of the action is unknown or unimportant, Royal explains. “The world’s largest pearl was discovered in the Philipines in 1934.” (The discovery is important, but the discoverer is unknown.).
Choose two pieces of information about your business or practice. First, select on where you or one of your employees performed a special service. Write an active voice sentence about that.
Then, choose a fact that is important or interesting for your readers to learn about but which does not highlight any particular person. Write a passive voice sentence about that.
Here are my two examples from the blogging world: (Can you tell which is which?)
“6.7 million people blog on blogging sites and 12 million people blog via social networks.”
“Today blogging is used widely by businesses as part of their marketing strategy.”
Are you suffering your blog action, or performing it?