When people read what you’ve written, they analyze the meaning through your writing tone. This tone resembles your voice when you are speaking with them. You may write some sentences in active voice while others in passive voice. It all depends on how you want to convey the information. So, what is active voice in writing? You can consider a sentence like ‘The girls ate desserts’ as an example of active voice. It is clear and is directly addressed.
If this sentence would be ‘The desserts were eaten by girls,’ it will become an example of passive voice. It has a more detached tone. Understanding active and passive voices and using them correctly can contribute significantly to engaging writing. In this article, you’ll learn in detail about them.
What Is Active Voice in Writing?
Both active and passive voices are suited to specific types of writing. You can see both of them in different kinds of content. When you use active voice in writing, you make your sentence’s subject do the action. The sentence’s subject is generally a pronoun or a noun in active voice.
To understand active voice better, go through these examples.
The student (subject) gave (verb) the speech (object)
How do you find that this sentence is in an active voice? Look at the verb’s action and ask yourself what or who is doing it. In active sentences, the focus is always on the doer, and it’s put up in front ahead of the sentence’s verb.
Below are some examples of active voice sentences.
- Ashley likes bird watching.
- His favorite day of the week is Sunday.
- Researchers earlier demonstrated that greater stress could lead to heart attacks.
- The wolf bit the girl.
Irrespective of the verb you use in your sentence, structuring them in order for the subject to perform the verb refers to writing in active voice. This kind of voice has a clear and direct tone. So, you should use it if you wish for your readers to concentrate on your sentence’s subject and not the action.
What Is Passive Voice in Writing?
Now that you are familiar with what is active voice in writing, it’s time to learn about passive voice. In contrast to the active voice, it becomes a passive voice when the verb acts upon the doer. When you write in this voice, your writing shows that the verb acts upon the subject.
Each sentence in passive voice has a conjugated form of the ‘to be’ verb and the past participle of the main verb. As a result, passive voice sentences include a preposition. These sentences are also lengthier than their active voice counterparts due to the addition of prepositions.
To understand passive voice better, here are some examples for you.
- The food (object) was (past participle of is) consumed (past tense of consume) by (preposition) the children (subject).
You can quickly notice how passive voice sentences bulk up a sentence that could otherwise be precise and short. Although every sentence states a similar action, the active voice says it more directly. It’s because it positions the verb’s subject ahead of it. Based on its utility, the subject’s placement matters immensely. The sentence construction exerts tremendous impact if you need to create catchy sales copies for your brand.
Active Vs. Passive Voice in Writing
If you engage in writing regularly, you must have noticed how some parts of it seem to be more precise and pop out more than others. After knowing what is active voice in writing, you must know the reason for it.
The active voice explains the sentence where the subject is performing the action. The subject performs the verb while the object receives the action. Sentences in active voice follow a subject + verb + object construct that’s reader-friendly and easy to understand.
In passive voice, the placement of the subject is after the verb. In these sentences, the subject does not perform the verb. The subject also does not receive the verb, so it isn’t the object of the sentence. These sentences are more roundabout and less straightforward than those in active voice.
Comparing active and passive voice sentences
Below are several sentences in their active and passive form. You will understand active vs passive voice in writing better when you go through and compare the sentences.
- Active voice – Ron ate six mushrooms at dinner.
Passive voice – At dinner, six mushrooms were eaten by Ron.
- Active voice – Anita changed the bedcover.
Passive voice – The bedcover was changed by Anita
- Active voice – Children are going to watch a puppet show tonight. Passive voice – A puppet show is going to be watched by children tonight
- Active voice – I completed the race in record time.
Passive voice – The race was completed by me in record time.
- Active voice – The teacher will give you relevant instructions.
Passive voice – Relevant instructions will be given to you by the teacher.
- Active voice – Numerous tourists visit the Grand Canyon each year.
Passive voice – The Grand Canyon is visited by numerous tourists each year.
- Active voice – The family remodeled the property to sell it.
Passive voice – The property was remodeled by the family to sell.
- Active voice – The saltwater corroded the beams.
Passive voice – The beams were corroded by saltwater.
- Active voice – The history class viewed the battle.
Passive voice – The battle was viewed by the history class.
Why Should You Use Active Voice in Writing?
After understanding what is active voice in writing, you must be pretty sure how you should structure your content. Human beings are complex thinkers. You may want to present your views clearly to your readers or audience. But unknowingly conveying information in the passive voice is common. It is because your sentences are an outcome of you attempting to work out a thought in your mind.
If you want to structure a sentence succinctly, you need to be attentive and focused. While making online content, you must always ensure that it’s catchy and straightforward. It is because the average attention span of a reader is relatively low. People search for quick information on the web. They don’t want to spend more than a couple of minutes, skimming through any content. When you use active voice, you can be sure that you will:
- Present your information directly.
- Write sentences with more energy that will draw more attention.
- Convey a message that people will find easy to understand.
Through active voice, you can get to the point with lesser words. Not only that, the direct sentences are easier for people to comprehend. Also, writing in an active voice will help you sound more authoritative and knowledgeable. It will create momentum that’ll enable your readers to stay engaged throughout the time they are reading your content.
In contrast, when you extensively use passive voice, your readers will likely feel less excited to continue the reading. They won’t stay on the same page, which, in turn, won’t increase your conversion rates.
When to Use Active and Passive Voice?
As you may be aware by now, active voice sentences are more concise and stronger than those in passive voice. Generally, it is better to write in an active voice. Passive voice sentences appear a bit weaker. They also sound somewhat unnatural compared to those in active voice. They are also wordier than sentences in active voice.
However, you should also remember that you can only change sentences with direct objects to passive voice. You can understand this fact better when you look at the examples below.
- Active voice – The bat sat on the table. (Right)
- Passive voice – The bat is sat on the table. (Wrong)
This sentence cannot be changed to passive voice. It doesn’t have a passive voice alternative because it lacks a direct object. ‘On the table’ is a prepositional phrase. Don’t confuse it with being a recipient of the action.
Using passive voice
Using too many passive voice sentences can cause a mess of prepositional phrases. But the passive voice also focuses on the recipient of an action or the action. Since it does not concentrate on the action’s agent, there are certain instances when you can use this tone of voice. Below are various cases where the use of passive voice is more suitable.
- When emphasizing the recipient or the action instead of the agent – To understand using passive voice in such a case better, go through the following example.
Twenty samples were gathered.
The focus here is on the samples and the fact that they were gathered. The emphasis is not on the person or the subject who collected them.
- To do away with naming the agent – Here is an example that will help you find out why you should avoid using passive voice when you need to avoid naming an agent.
Numerous mistakes were overlooked.
Here, the usage of passive voice enables the one who overlooked the mistakes to stay unidentified. That’s why passive voice sentences are massively used to prevent an accusatory tone and stay tact when pinpointing errors.
- When the agent is anonymous or unimportant – You must use passive voice more than active voice if you want the agent to remain unknown. Here’s an example to understand it.
Leena’s house was robbed last February. The investigators haven’t yet zeroed the suspects.
In this case, the one who robbed Leena’s home is unknown. Thus, using passive voice makes more sense. If you write this sentence in an active voice, you will have to say, “Someone robbed Leena’s home last February.” It emphasizes the unknown person who robbed Leena instead of the fact that Leena was robbed.
- When you need to take an authoritative tone – A passive voice is also more suitable than an active voice if you need to write authoritatively. To understand why, go through this example.
Boarding the bus without a face mask is not allowed.
- When you want consistent focus throughout several sentences – Use passive voice if you want to make the emphasis constant throughout multiple sentences. Read the example below to know what it means.
Group 3 gathered the samples. They were then assessed by group 2 using HPLC.
Here, using passive voice for the sentence that comes after the first enables the two sentences to keep the same focus. Both focus on samples. They don’t concentrate on specific groups that gathered and assessed them.
If you are unsure of using active or passive voice, ask yourself what you desire to convey. Do you want to bring attention to the subject? If yes, use passive voice. On the other hand, if you choose to emphasize the action, it is always wise to use an active voice in writing.
Hopefully, this exhaustive article will clear all your doubts about active voice in writing. Use this tone whenever you can for creating brand content and content marketing. It will immediately draw your audience’s attention and make them more interested. If you want more assistance with creating engaging content to fuel your marketing efforts, feel free to connect with reliable content writing services.