From Passive to Peppy: How to Write in an Active Voice and Be More Engaging
Anyone who does scientific or academic writing uses passive sentences from time to time. But why do content marketing experts put such a strong emphasis on sentence construction? Well, a blog post or an essay aims to catch a reader’s attention. Therefore, this article explains how using active sentences benefits a writer.
Why is Active Voice a Way to Write Better?
A major question arises when everyone encourages you to use an active voice. Why does a passive voice lose this competition? Let’s take a look at the sentence structure in both cases. For example, an active sentence would be ‘Millie reads a book,’ and a passive sentence would transform into ‘A book is read by Millie.’
Even without knowing language rules, an essay writer can tell which writing style is eye candy. Active sentences naturally sound more pleasant and engaging. Is this some kind of sorcery? The secret is that people rarely use passive sentences in real life. Instead, they focus on the meaning rather than a beautiful sentence form.
Additionally, active sentences have a faster pace. Imagine a reader who is looking for a recipe. Indeed, they would like to learn ingredients and measurements quickly. In this situation, sentences written using passive verbs slow down the reading process and irritate the reader.
Apart from the speed factor, every sentence has an informative function. Thus, here wins the writing style that makes more sense for the readers. Especially in scientific writing, double meanings and twists are not welcome.
Comparing Active and Passive Voice
If your goal is to create an engaging paper, first learn the difference between two kinds of voices. Both have a right to exist depending on the type of written work. So let the battle of ‘Active vs passive voice’ begin!
- Word Count
Making your sentences more concise is one of the popular writing tips. Mind that passive voice examples have more words than active phrases:
‘Josh drives a car.’
‘A car is driven by Josh.’
Both sentences convey the same idea. However, the active voice sentence contains fewer words and is more easily readable.
- Word Order
No matter what type of sentence you come across, there is usually a verb, an object, and a subject:
‘A woman pets the cat.’
‘The cat is being petted by a woman.’
Notice how the verb (to pet) changes its form while the object (a cat) and the subject of the sentence (a woman) switch places.
Whether you pay someone to write an essay or prefer your own writing, you should know about passive vs active voice verbs. For example, in an active sentence, ‘John ate the cake,’ you see the regular past tense of the verb ‘to eat.’ Meanwhile, if you say, ‘The cake was eaten by John,’ you see Past Participle. This example shows that active verbs are easier for readers to perceive. So, we suggest you start using them.
Above all, an active or passive voice sets a certain tone in any written example. If you focus on the feeling these phrases give, you may admit that action verbs are more direct. Contrarily, passive wording sounds more neutral.
Why Is It Important to Use the Active Voice?
What is active voice in a nutshell? According to the active voice definition, you always know who is the subject of the sentence. So why exactly is active voice important? Here is an analysis of its most common advantages.
As mentioned before, active voice creates a more direct message than a passive voice sentence. Although it may seem like there is no difference for a reader, active verbs always have a stronger impact on the audience. For example, saying ‘The government funds young families’ hooks attention. On the other hand, in ‘Young families are funded by the government,’ the subject receives less recognition. Thus, the tone seems off and not engaging enough.
How to write in active voice? Create as simple sentences as possible! In most written examples, the authors convey information through minimum words. Yet, in someone’s personal opinion, the passive voice sounds more sophisticated. At the same time, it becomes hard to enjoy reading with an overkill of passive verbs. An average reader prefers clear and concise papers.
Undeniably, a verb’s action affects the receiver in a sentence somehow. The audience has to understand the cause and effect, and an active voice helps better in this case. For instance, popular writing tips recommend saying, ‘A robber stole a million dollars,’ instead of ‘A million dollars was stolen by a robber.’ Why is the first option better? All because the general public needs to know who acted as a criminal here.
When to Use an Active Voice?
Whenever you order essay online or look up other people’s works, you encounter various active voice examples. The reason is that active phrases are the standard in academic papers. However, the use of active verbs is far beyond scholarly works. Here are other motivations for employing active voice:
While Constructing Shorter Phrases
Do you want to create a paper that gets straight to the point? Then, express your thoughts through an active voice. For example, look at the following sentence:
‘The road sign was installed by workers yesterday.’
Even less experienced writers can agree that this piece seems too wordy. So which is the best way to write this sentence in the active voice? Try this order instead:
‘Workers installed the road sign yesterday.’
Even though the meaning remains the same in active vs. passive voice, the message shrinks and looks better. This strategy helps when you have an assignment with a limited word count!
To Evoke a Feeling of Authority
Sometimes, a person wants to make their writing more serious and authoritative. Should they pick active voice or passive voice to meet their goal? Compare the next options:
‘The manager implemented a new strategy.’
‘A new strategy was implemented by the manager.’
Indeed, the wording in the first case sounds more powerful as the emphasis is on the subject (the manager).
To Make Sentences Easy to Grasp
Anyone who uses law essay writing services knows how important word order is for meaning interpretation. Since passive voice is often overcomplicated, experts recommend avoiding it. Read the next piece:
‘The obligations were promised to be fulfilled by the partner until December.’
How to change passive to active voice here? See the next option:
‘The partner promised to fulfill the obligations until December.’
That’s it! A writer decreases word count and avoids confusing the readers.
When to Use Passive Voice Sentences?
You might assume that active wording is the best solution in any situation. However, despite all the spotlight the active voice receives, there is still room for employing the passive form. What is passive voice, in short? A passive voice example would be ‘A tree is cut by the neighbor.’ In such sentences, a subject (a tree) always undergoes some effect from an object (the neighbor). Such wording is useful under certain circumstances, which we discuss below.
While Making General Declarations
While some people might wonder how to fix passive voice in their writing, others actively employ it. The first illustration of passive wording is more common than you think. You hear passive speech regularly when you visit a public area like a train station, airport, or shopping mall. Some of the illustrations are:
‘Visitors are advised to leave before the mall closes at 11 p.m.’
‘Train passengers are reminded to keep their tickets till the end of the trip.’
‘Theater visitors are advised to arrive at least ten minutes before play.’
To Underline the Receiver of the Action
Passive voice puts emphasis on someone or something that receives the action. In other words, the subject in such sentences plays the main role. For example, let’s analyze the following illustration:
‘Michael Jackson was adored by people worldwide.’
What information do you get from these words? It is possible to rephrase the sentence like this:
‘People adored Michael Jackson worldwide.’
The first wording underlines Michael Jackson as a receiver the most.
When the Agent is Unimportant or Uninteresting
Another situation when a passive voice is applicable occurs when the information about an agent is unessential. You can mention the ‘doer’ briefly or ignore him without distorting the sentence's meaning. Usually, this writing strategy helps when you speak about services:
‘My hair is cut monthly.’
‘Their pool is being cleaned at this moment.’
‘The clothes are washed regularly.’
As you can see, there is enough information about the hair, pool, and clothes. At this point, mentioning someone who does the action is unnecessary.
Changing Phrases to the Active Voice
Once you explore the concept, it becomes clear that both active and passive voice are necessary for high-quality communication. Nonetheless, many people want to figure out how to change passive voice to active voice. They might need this knowledge to improve their writing for studies or work. If you are one of these people, follow the further instructions:
- Look at your passive sentences and try to identify subjects, objects, and verbs.
- Get rid of the word ‘by’ if your sentence contains it.
- Transform the Past Participle into the verb that fits in the context.
- Swap subject and object.
With passive and active voice examples, the process looks easier. For example, see how the next passive sentence transforms:
‘A ball was thrown by children.’
Now you take out ‘by’ and change ‘was thrown’ for ‘threw.’ Finally, children become the subject, and a ball becomes an object:
‘Children threw a ball.’
Voila, you get a perfect active sentence!
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