My thoughts on writing tips found online and in published works (with some random thoughts thrown into the mix).

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Active vs. Passive Voice

Tips from Proofreading: Plain and Simple by Debra Hart May, with my own commentary:
  • "Passive sentences communicate information in a convoluted, less personal, and more wordy way."
    • There is only one upside to passive sentences: they allow you to be tactful, especially in sensitive situations. Through failing to place blame on any individual or group, they avoid upsetting any party involved. For example, when trying to explain a problem, it is better to start with "The project was late" instead of "You turned in the project late." Instead of causing the other person to become defensive, it allows the speaker to move past that fact and to the real issue at hand.
  • "Research as shown that: active voice sentences are easier to understand; active voice sentences are easier to remember; [and] active voice sentences require fewer words."
    • These three properties of active sentences all overlap. They are easier to understand and remember because they have fewer words. They are easier to remember because they are easier to understand and have fewer words. The best thing to do when you are writing is to use the active voice, both for the above reasons and because it engages the reader. It allows them to imagine that the action is occuring in front of them while they are reading, instead of in the distance or in the past. It also places them within the action, helping them connect intimately with what is going on in the piece.


  1. Hi Rebecca - thanks for the twitter follow! I just found your blog and love this post on active voice. Great reminders and advice, thank you!

    1. Thanks for checking out my blog, Lana! I hope you come back for more advice and tips, I strive to update my blog daily!