The world of web content writing is quirky at best. Like most niches, it has its own set of best practices and guidelines that make it powerful and effective. A content writing guideline that turns up often is the active voice.
What is the active voice and why is it important in content writing?
What Makes the Active Voice So Active?
Time for a quick AP English grammar lesson.
In an active voice sentence, the subject is doing the action and the verb describes the action.
The horse drank the water.
The teacher gave the speech.
The pilot flew the plane.
By contrast, in a passive voice sentence, the subject is being acted upon by the action.
The water was drank by the horse.
The speech was given by the teacher.
The plane was flown by the pilot.
While each sentence states the same action, the active voice states the action more directly by placing the subject doing the action ahead of the verb.
Why Is the Active Voice Important?
From a content writing perspective there are several practical reasons why the active voice is important:
It Creates an Authoritative Voice
Company executives, business owners, and industry experts all want to sound authoritative and credible. The direct, punchy style of the active voice instantly gives top-level professional a strong writing delivery. For instance:
Active: We deliver efficient service, affordable rates, and dependable work you can count on.
Passive: You can can count on efficient service, affordable, rates, and dependable work delivered by us.
While the passive works, it doesn’t pack the punch. The active voice gives a straightforward delivery with authority because the focus is on what the company can do for the customer.
It’s Easier to Read
When content writing companies, web companies, and other companies state that they want easy to read sentences, what most of them are referring to (even if they don’t realize it) is that they want you to write in the active voice.
Why? Because reading in the active voice requires less effort.
Active: John’s sister plays the harp beautifully. She earned her music degree while attending Baker University. She plays three other instruments.
Passive: The harp is beautifully played by John’s sister. Her degree was earned by her at Baker University where she attended. There are other three instruments played by her.
While this example is a bit extreme, the example clearly demonstrates that if you fill your paragraphs with passive sentences, you will exhaust your readers.
It Uses Less Words
Less is more in content writing. Fewer words allow you to get right to the point and fill up your article with more meaningful content. The passive voice is a word waster.
Active: A personal injury lawyer can take your case. You can then file a lawsuit, and a jury will decide the verdict. You may win your case.
Passive: Your case will be taken by a personal injury lawyer. Once the lawsuit is filed by you, the verdict will then be decided by a jury.
In this particular example, there is more meaningful content in the active voice than in the passive voice, because there are fewer wasted words.
Why You Should Avoid the Passive Voice in Content Marketing
Content writing is essentially content marketing. Much of what you write is either direct marketing (copywriting) or indirect marketing (articles and blogs). Either way, you are marketing yourself or your company.
From a marketing perspective, the reason you should write in the active voice in content marketing is because your voice is more engaging. Therefore, you are more likely to optimize your content and hold your reader’s attention.
Your audience landed on your web page because they wanted quick answers to their questions. They don’t want to read a Pulitzer-Prize winning essay. So give them what they want and keep them on your page.
Then Why Do So Many Writers Write in the Passive Voice?
The answer is simple. The reason we write in the passive voice is because we are complex thinkers. Our sentences are often a product of us trying to work out a thought in our head.
Structuring a sentence in a succinct manner requires far more attentiveness and focus than a complex sentence that seems to never end.
Get Active in Your Writing Style
Using the active voice consistently is one of the most challenging elements in content writing. Once you learn how to master it, however, you will find that it drastically improves your writing and enhances your web page readability.
Credits: Content writer