Which one is it, the Active or Passive Voice?

For years, nobody seemed to care much about writing in the Active or Passive Voice, that is unless they were taking high school english. But once we entered the age of content marketing, it became a white-hot topic. Don’t write in the Passive Voice, beware the Passive Voice, search engines hate the Passive Voice… Well, they’re all pretty correct. In content writing, the Passive Voice should be limited as much as possible. No, your website won’t crash if you use it, but you should use the Active Voice as much as possible.

Why is the Active Voice Important when Creating Content?

Glad you asked. Using the Active Voice in content marketing helps to:

  • Make content easier to read, especially if readers don’t count English as their first language.
  • Make the content more engaging while getting to the point faster. You’re not writing Moby Dick. With apologies to Herman Melville, you want to keep your reader engaged.
  • Call readers to action much better and faster. And CTAs (Calls to Action) should be at the core of everything you write. In fact, you should consider a CTA prior to writing. Everything must support the CTA. If it doesn’t, cut it.
  • Eliminate reader speed bumps. Along with being harder to read, the Passive Voice stymies momentum, making readers less engaged, interested, entertained, and informed, and more likely to quickly scroll to the bottom of the screen and miss the CTA.
  • Make a connection with your ready. By using the Active Voice, you’ll make that connection a lot easier with more concise, to-the-point content.

Great, but how do I spot the Passive Voice?

It’s often pretty easy to spot, but other times…not so much. Without getting into transitive action verbs, auxiliary verb phrases, and all the other stuff you daydreamed through in high school english class, just try and remember the following:

The Active Voice means the subject performs verb’s action. For instance, the sentence Bob threw the ball is in the Active Voice. Who took the action of throwing the ball? Bob, right? In the Passive Voice, the sentence would read The Ball was thrown by Bob. Bob is still the subject―he did the throwing―but he’s listed after the verb. The direct object―the ball―is listed first. The subject―Bob―is being acted upon.

Ask yourself this question―Who is performing the action? In the Active Voice, it should be very clear.

Also, and more often than not, the Pasive Voice contain helping verbs like is, am, are, was, were, be, being, been, do, did, does, will, shall, should, would, might, may, must, could, and can. Look out for them as you write content; if you spot them, you’ve probably written the sentence in the Passive Voice. Often, just eliminating the helping verb can make changing to the Active Voice pretty easy. Remember the prior example―The ball was thrown by Bob.

Keep in mind that the Passive Voice doesn’t mean it’s poorly written, just not the best way to go when creating content. It’s often used, and used very effectively, in academic writing. In content writing, however, limit it as much as possible. Your readers will thank you and so will your SEO efforts.

Questions about Writing Content?

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