Activate Active Voice

This month’s Workplace Writing Power Point activates Active Voice. And you get two points every time you use it over Passive Voice – for ‘Concise’ and ‘Conversational’.

Write in the Active Voice whenever possible. While passive voice worked for your high school term papers to get you closer to the required word count and helped you sound more ‘educated’, it doesn’t work very well in today’s more casual workplace. Active Voice is shorter, simpler and more conversational. The person taking action (the ‘doer’) is identified or clearly implied.

  • So ‘Bob is to be sent your suggestions.’ becomes ‘You should send your suggestions to Bob’.
  • ‘The deadline will be determined.’ becomes ‘I/We/Anne will determine the deadline’.
  • Consider ‘I/We/Hector will share the results Monday.’ instead of ‘The results will be shared Monday’.
  • Turn ‘Your help is appreciated.’ into ‘I/We/Sue appreciate(s) your help’.
  • There are a few instances when Passive Voice does work better. When you don’t know ‘who did it’ or you do know but can’t tell, opt for Passive. Doesn’t ‘Our office was broken into.’ sound less contrived than ‘A person or persons unknown broke into our office.’ And Lester might prefer ‘Three people will be terminated Friday.’ over ‘Lester will terminate three people Friday.’

So, use Active Voice as often as possible. It sounds a lot more concise and conversational – like people talking to people on paper. And isn’t that what routine workplace writing should be?