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What is active voice and why is it important?

What is active voice and why is it important?

In a nutshell, it’s a more positive way of writing and yes it is important!

Using active voice in your communications makes them more direct and engaging. Passive voice can be seen to be avoiding the issue somewhat. For instance compare the sentences:

1. Your invoice will be paid next month

2. Our accounts department will pay your invoice next month

The first one sounds like an exercise over which you have no control – the invoice will be paid. Somehow, it leaves room for doubt and you just have to hope that it will.

However, the second one sounds much more positive with a definitive action.

In active voice, the subject is doing the action e.g. The accounts department is the subject, paying the invoice is the action, the invoice is the object.

In passive voice, the object (the invoice) becomes the subject with an action being done to it. It can be a bit vague. 

However, passive voice is sometimes used on purpose for diplomatic reasons. For example imagine a group of people at a party and someone breaks a glass.  The host comes in to find people scrabbling around for a dustpan and brush. Rather than saying “Fred broke a glass” (an active voice sentence), Fred’s embarrassment can be avoided by saying “a glass got broken”.

Another example is politicians who want to dodge responsibility for something, for instance “taxes will be raised” (passive) rather than “we will raise taxes” (active)

So if you want your communications to be perceived as strong and positive, use active voice.

Although it can help to know the grammatical rules, the key to this is to think about is whether there is a clear and obvious responsibility within your sentence. Active voice is easier to understand and that’s always a bonus when you’re writing.

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