If your writing has been feeling a bit lethargic and needs livening up, writing in the active voice is a great place to start.
In the active voice, the subject of a sentence does something to an object. When you write in the passive voice, the sentence comes out backwards; someone or something has something done to them. If that sounds a bit confusing, don’t worry – our Structured Writing Method has the problem covered:
Samantha delivered the parcel.
The parcel was delivered by Samantha.
The first sentence, ‘Samantha delivered the parcel’ is in the active voice. Samantha is doing something to the parcel. The second sentence is in the passive voice because the parcel is having something done to it – it is being delivered.
If you need to work out if a sentence is in the active or passive voice, see if it has a clause starting with ‘by’ – ‘by Samantha’. If it does, it is often a passive sentence. Even if that clause isn’t there – for example, ‘The parcel was delivered’ – it is probably also a passive sentence if you could add in the ‘by Samantha’ and the sentence would still make sense.
How does using the active voice improve your writing?
As well as keeping your writing lively, the active voice can also help in these ways too:
- A sense of immediacy
As you can see in the example above, the active voice gives the sentence a sense of movement and a much more powerful sense of immediacy. Your reader will be more inclined to read what you have to say if you are pulling them along with you.
- Your reader will be more engaged
As well as being more inclined to read your writing, your reader will also find the active voice easier to follow and more engaging. The passive voice – especially when it comes to long sentences – can get confusing very quickly as the subject and object of the sentence isn’t clear. The last thing you want is for your reader to have to go back to try and work out what you are telling them.
- You save words on your precious word counts
If you are writing an important document such as a bid, you will be working to very strict word counts for each individual section; word counts that can make or break the success of the document. Writing in the active voice is one simple way of ensuring that you are using up fewer words per sentence. ‘Samantha delivered the parcel’ has two fewer words than ‘The parcel was delivered by Samantha’.