To add impact to your composition, here are some active writing tips. They will help your writing be easier to understand and flow better.
Most sentences in the English language use the active voice. In most of these sentences, it is the subject of the sentence which performs the action. The active voice is more concise and clear. Examples are “The fish swam in the ocean.” and “She is riding her bike.”
The passive voice is sometimes vague and awkward and changes the emphasis of the sentence to the person or thing receiving the action. Since there are more words involved, this can make the writing sluggish and confusing. Examples are “The cookies were made for the bake sale.” and “The road was paved by the construction crew.”
Sometimes, people will use the passive voice to cover up who performed the action or to be vague on purpose. Examples:
- Rumors were spread.
- Miscalculations were made.
Mystery writers will use the passive voice to draw attention to an object rather than the criminal, like “The secret plans were stolen.” Crime reports also use the passive voice because the perpetrator has not been caught, like “The store was robbed.”
Active sentences have more substance than passive ones. Using an active voice will make sentences flow better. If your writing is too wordy or seems to be unclear, you may need to change some passive sentences to active ones. Here are two examples:
- Mary was kissed by Alan. Alan kissed Mary.
- The fly ball was caught by Wendy. Wendy caught the fly ball.
Need more explanation? Check out the YourDictionary Active vs. Passive Voice infographic for an easy-to-understand visual explanation.
Active Writing Tips
Here are some active writing tips to make your work easy to understand and coherent.
- Using the active voice will give more impact to your writing. This is one of the most important of the active writing tips.
- Change passive sentences to active ones to reduce the number of words and strengthen the tone of the work.
- Remember that less is more. Overly complicated sentences, especially passive ones, will slow down the reader. Shorter, active sentences keep the flow going.
- Business writing, like memos, letters, resumes, etc, need to be written in an active voice. Clarity is the number one goal of business writing.
- Using the active voice makes it look like you are observing the action; that things are happening. A passive voice makes it appear that people or objects are just waiting around for stuff to happen to them. The reader will be more engaged when the active voice is used.
Active Writing Test
Since most passive sentences use a form of the verb “to be” like am, was, were, are, etc, many people think any sentence with that verb is passive. Many are, but some are not.
Here is a little test to help you know if you understand the difference between active and passive voice. Change these sentences that have a passive voice to sentences with an active voice. One of them cannot be changed.
- Italian pizza is eaten by many people.
- My cattle are being fed by Grandpa.
- Her new toy was broken by her brother.
- Our Christmas tree was decorated by the whole family.
- The snowman was melted by the warm sun.
- The roads were covered by the heavy snow.
- That movie was seen by millions of people.
- The vault was broken into by a clever cat burglar.
- Bombs were dropped over the island last night.
- The chocolate cake was baked by my aunt.
- Many people eat Italian pizza.
- Grandpa is feeding my cattle.
- Her brother broke her new toy.
- The whole family decorated our Christmas tree.
- The warm sun melted the snowman.
- The heavy snow covered the roads.
- Millions of people saw that movie.
- A clever cat burglar broke into the vault.
- Cannot be changed
- My aunt baked the chocolate cake.