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Simple Tip #4 to Instantly Improve Your Writing

Photo: Álvaro Serrano

Photo: Álvaro Serrano

I didn’t like the Harry Potter character at first.

I liked the premise of the story. And I liked the world that J. K. Rowling created.

But Harry was so spineless. Everyone seemed to walk all over him.

I get it. He was a young boy. An orphan. No self confidence.

He was passive.

But I didn’t root for him until the point he showed some spine. The point he took action.

I feel the same about passive writing.

I prefer active voice over passive voice.

Active voice feels energetic, direct, crisp, powerful.

Simple Tip #4 to Instantly Improve Your Writing

Use active voice, rather than passive voice.

In active voice, the subject performs the action of the verb. In passive voice, the subject is acted upon by the verb. (See what I did there?)

Here’s a simple example:

Passive: The halibut was caught by Tom.
Active: Tom caught the halibut.

And another:

Passive: The story is told by Mark Twain.
Active: Mark Twain tells the story.

Active: To tell

Passive: To be told

A word of caution: Not all uses of the verb to be indicate passive voice. It may be used to describe a state of being, such as:

Taylor is a good employee.

Active voice adds clarity and precision in meaning. It conveys confidence.

Look at this business example:

Passive: A new product line should be created to attract new customers.
Active: Create a new product line to attract new customers.

Don’t get me wrong. Passive voice is grammatically correct. But passive voice can weaken your writing. Some English teachers say that passive voice is lazy writing.

This is not a grammar issue.

This is a style choice.

As Always, Exceptions to the Rule Lurk

Some situations may call for passive voice — perhaps when you want to emphasize the object. Or when you need variety in the narrative.

But limit your usage. You will strengthen your writing.

 

Sometimes You Need a Little Creativity Boost

My free eBook might just help:

5 Exercises that Will Make You 10 Times More Creative

I use these exercises to keep the juices flowing — in myself and in my clients. (I am a marketing consultant, after all.)

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Bryan Searing