Is Your Writing Style Killing Your Content?

When writing a blog post, you need to sound like the absolute authority on your subject. Otherwise your reader won’t trust you and will move on to the next “expert.”

 

One way writers lose authority is by using a passive voice. Passive voice is described as “the voice used to indicate that the grammatical subject of the verb is the recipient (not the source) of the action denoted by the verb.”

Say what?

This means that the subject of the sentence is being acted upon instead of doing the acting.

While the information you present is logical and useful, using a passive tone to deliver it weakens the integrity of your position. Also, this type of writing tends to meanders around the central point. To quote Sweet Brown, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”

 

Here’s an example of a statement written in the passive voice:

 

“It was determined by the reader that the article was too passive.”

 

Structurally, this sentence is fine. It gives the necessary details so that the reader fully understands the author’s intention.

 

However, from a readability standpoint, it’s cumbersome. Would you use this type of language when sharing a conversation with a friend?

 

Most writing experts agree that an active voice is much more direct and authoritative; it makes the reader want to believe what you’re saying.

 

If you were to think of the two writing styles in character form, Clark Kent is passive and Superman is active. One appears weak and timid while the other is strong and demands attention.

 

So, how would you switch the previous example from passive to active voice?

 

Here are two strategies that I use to strengthen any sentence:

 

Make it shorter. An easy way to switch from a passive to active voice is to shorten the statement. What words are unnecessary? While this won’t always work it’s certainly a great place to start.

 

Move the subject. Ask yourself if the subject is in control of the statement. In other words, is the subject doing the acting? Oftentimes this means placing the subject at the start of the statement.

 

Before I show you how to transform the example into an active voice, I want you to give it a try. Take a minute or so and rearrange the sentence to make it active.

 

Finished?

 

Here’s my active variation of the sentence:

 

“The reader determined that the post was too passive.”

 

Do you see the difference? It’s three words shorter—that might not seem like much to you, but remember that your reader is very busy. She’s more likely to stick with you to the end when you stay direct.

 

Short, simple statements are usually more effective than long, complicated ones. It’s a firm handshake, compared with a limp-wristed one, passive one.

 

Let’s try a few more examples.

 

Passive: “We were given permission to stay out past curfew by our parents.”

 

Active: “Our parents gave us permission to stay out past curfew.”

 

Passive: “The holiday party was ruined because of the power outage.”

 

Active: “The power outage ruined the holiday party.”

 

Passive: “The road was crossed by the chicken because he wanted to get to the other side.”

 

Active: “The chicken crossed the road to get to the other side.”

 

Now, it’s your turn. I’ve given you three passive sentences below. Choose your favorite and post its active alter ego in the comments section below.

 

“It was known by the teacher that the students were going to ditch class on Tuesday.”

 

“Because the car had a flat tire, Jennifer had no choice but to take the bus to work.”

 

“Harry was taken to the hospital by Charlotte.”

 

I look forward to your responses.

 

Oh, and please post any questions you have on this topic. Chances are, someone else shares the same question.

 

Ryan

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