Active Voice vs. Passive Voice A Simple Guide

June 23, 2017

As you probably (hopefully) already know, content writing and online content creation is about much more than just filling space with keywords. As each year goes by, your prospective customers become more and more savvy, sophisticated and opposed to the same old bullshit. That’s not to say you need to be producing Pulitzer Prize worthy content every time you write a blog post, but you’d better follow the best practices of writing engaging content, or hire a blog writing company that knows what to do.

One of the elements of engaging content not a lot of SEO agencies or even content writers consider is the active voice vs. passive voice debate. Here is some info to shed light on the topic and give you an idea which is best.

Writing in Active Voice

Most of the time, writing in the active voice is the preferred way to get your message across. When you write in the active voice, the subject of the sentence is performing the action. Active voice is straightforward and won’t confuse the reader.

“Billy jumped over the ditch” is an example of an active sentence. It is uncomplicated and direct just says what is happening. The subject (Billy) performs the action (jumped).

Writing in Passive Voice

Most editors and academic types tend to look down on using passive voice when writing. It is generally less direct and can get a little clumsy and unnecessarily complex. Taking from the example above, a passive version would be, “The ditch was jumped over by Billy.”

Essentially, it says the same thing, but it isn’t as concise and doesn’t flow the same way because the order of the subject, action and target is rearranged.

Which One Should I Use?

Whenever possible, it is best to use the active voice when creating content, ads, papers, even your headlines. Simplicity typically rules the day when it comes to writing, and active sentences are simple and to the point. In some cases, such as in scientific writing, or if the reader will be unsure of who took the action, the passive voice is preferred, but most of the time you’ll want to use the active voice as often as possible.

To determine if you are using active voice, read your sentences and figure out if the subject of the sentence is taking action, or being acted upon. If you can remember that in a passive sentence, the subject is the receiver of action instead of the giver or doer, that should help.

“Sally ate four ice cream cones” is active. “Four ice cream cones were eaten by Sally” is passive.

Using passive voice in your content isn’t going to make it unreadable, but most people will enjoy content that uses more active voice, even if they aren’t sure of the difference. If you’d like to talk about any aspect of content creation, give The Content Company a call today at 888-221-5041.

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