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Why you need an active voice in your content

To get better outcomes with your content, try these tips:

  • Use an active voice

  • Use short sentences

  • Avoid jargon

  • Ignore grammar rules





1. USE AN ACTIVE VOICE


Using an active voice can aid engagement, whereas a passive voice is better for Board Reports. You can use an active voice with email subject lines. It can be used with website content.


1.1 What is an active voice compared to a passive one?


Using the passive voice is a way of writing sentences so that the subject has the action 'done' to it. With an active voice, the subject of the sentence performs the action.


Sentences with an active voice are usually easier to understand as they are clear and direct.


“Why was the road crossed by the chicken?” = PASSIVE.


But the more familiar phrase (why did the chicken cross the road?) puts the actor in the subject position - the position of doing something. The chicken (the actor/doer) crosses the road (the object).


You can use active verbs to represent that “doing,” whether it be crossing roads, proposing ideas, making arguments, or invading houses (more on that shortly).


1.2 Spotting That Voice


You can spot the passive voice as they are likely to contain sentences with:


“is”

“am”

“are”

“were”

“be”

“being”

“been”


“Complaints were lodged by customers,” becomes, “Customers lodged complaints.”


Read more on an article on the BBC website - Bitesize section - and search "Active Voice".).



2. KEEP SENTENCES SHORT As a rule of thumb, keep sentences to 12 words or less. There are times this rule can't be applied. But use it as a guide. Keep sentences short.

3. AVOID JARGON AND BIG WORDS


When you write content, it needs to be understood. Avoid jargon and big words. Big words are used to look clever – fine for a Board Report, but not for your target audience. Be understood. Use simple words. Use “use” not “utilise” for example.


4. IGNORE THE GRAMMAR POLICE


Write as you would speak.


“To boldly go where no man has gone before”. This is a split-infinitive, so should really be “To go boldly…” which has less impact.


People may tell you “never start a sentence with an ‘And’ or ‘ But’”. Yes you can. This helps keep your sentences short. And sharp.


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