Write Using Active Voice

Filed Under: Writing Tips

Date Created:01 Apr 2017

Last Modified:01 Apr 2017

Number of Views: 601

If you want to write more clearly and forcefully, use the active voice.

Read passage 1 and passage 2 below:

The arrow that was shot by the hefty warrior sped above the boy’s head, slightly grazing his hair. The ground thudded as the boy fell and landed on it. The ground was scoured thoroughly by the boy’s wild eyes that were full of fear, and almost immediately, the bow was seen. It was quickly picked up by the boy and loaded with an arrow from his quiver. The arrow was aimed carefully and was sent speeding towards the warrior’s heart with deadly accuracy…
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The hefty warrior sent the arrow speeding above the boys head, slightly grazing his hair. The boy crushed to the ground in an instant, panting heavily, his eyes wild with fear. He scoured the ground thoroughly and saw his bow. He quickly picked it up and loaded it with an arrow from his quiver. He aimed it carefully and sent it speeding towards the warrior’s heart with deadly accuracy…
Which of the two passages do you find more interesting?

If you say # 1, I will seriously wonder.

But if you say # 2, I am with you!

Why is passage #2 more interesting?

Simply put, it is written in the active voice. Passage # 1 is not only less interesting but it is also quite wordy, making it a bit more labourious to read.

The active voice places more emphasis on the subject i.e. the doer of the action:

The hefty warrior sent the arrow speeding above the boys head, slightly grazing his hair.

He scoured the ground thoroughly and saw his bow.

He aimed it carefully and sent it speeding towards the warrior’s heart with deadly accuracy…

The passive voice emphasizes the object i.e. the receiver of the action:

The arrow that was shot by the hefty warrior sped above the boys head, slightly grazing his hair.

The ground was scoured thoroughly by the boy’s wild eyes that were full of fear, and almost immediately, the bow was seen.

The arrow was aimed carefully and was send speeding towards the warrior’s heart with deadly accuracy…

Have you noticed that the active voice generates sentences that are shorter and more to the point?

Such kinds of sentences easily form images in the mind of the reader because they immediately identify the subject.

They are short, simple and straight to the point.

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It is no wonder that it is recommended for business communications such as letters and memos.

Hence, if you want your readers to enjoy your writing, write in the active rather than the passive voice.

This is not to say that you should never use the passive voice at all. It definitely has its place. For example:

Tom’s aching tooth was removed yesterday.

It is not necessary to say:

Tom’s aching tooth was removed by the dentist yesterday.

Or

The dentist removed Tom’s aching tooth yesterday.

This is because we already know that decayed teeth are usually removed by dentists.

The area of interest is the object—the aching tooth, not the dentist. The passive plays an excellent role in emphasizing the object.

However, if the area of interest was the dentist, active voice would be the best:

The new and inexperienced dentist removed Tom’s aching tooth yesterday.

A little precaution though: stick to one voice! Do not switch from one voice to another in your writing. It may confuse the reader:

The dentist removed Tom’s aching tooth and it was thrown away.

It would sound better if you say:

The dentist removed Tom’s aching tooth and threw it away.

So in conclusion, if you want your writing to be more effective, make it clear and easy to follow. There is no better way of achieving this than using the active voice!

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