If you want a quick, easy way to write content with more impact, so your readers keep reading, it’s this:
Yep, to really pack a punch, you need to use more active voice.
Well, for a really, really basic explanation, the ‘voice’ of a sentence refers to the way its subject and object, along with the nouns and verbs, are arranged. There are two of these ‘voices’ in English grammar – active voice and passive voice.
Okay, it’s specifically about WHO is doing the action in a sentence.
Let’s refer to a dictionary definition.
For active voice, Dictionary.com says: “When the verb of a sentence is in the active voice, the subject is doing the acting.”
For passive voice, it says: “A verb is in the passive voice when the subject of the sentence is acted on by the verb.”
Huh? What’s a ‘subject’? You could say it’s the ‘main character’ of a sentence.
These examples should make things clearer:
Active voice: The cat [subject] sat [active verb] on the mat.
Passive voice: The mat was sat on [passive verb] by the cat [subject].
Active voice: Your word choice [subject] affects [active verb] your website’s impact.
Passive voice: Your website’s impact is affected [passive verb] by your word choice [subject].
Which of those sentences sound more direct and engaging to you?
I hope you’ll say the active voice ones!
Generally, active voice has more impact and energy.
Active voice is bold. It gets to the point.
It’s more immediate, direct and engaging. Active voice sentences are usually shorter and punchier, so you get your message across faster and more clearly.
Which makes it easier for your readers to understand and engage with your content. That’s one way to keep them reading all the way to your call to action!
Passive voice sentences are longer and can sound overly formal and a little clunky. Still, passive voice is widely used in legal, science, government and corporate communication, to add objectivity and keep a distance. It’s also effectively used in fiction writing, to create a sense of mystery. But a 2010 study suggested passive voice can be harder to understand for people with lower levels of education. So if you want to get your message across to a broader audience, use active voice.
For marketing content, active voice wins for greater impact. Here’s a great article with examples of well-known slogans that just don’t cut it when changed to passive voice.
An online writing tool like The Hemingway app can identify passive voice in your writing, so you can change it.
Want some extra tips to help you write content with more impact?
Check out my blog post on bringing more energy to your copy.
You can download my Copy Energy workbook too, and try out some of these tips for yourself.
Staying active not only gives YOU more energy and better health – it has the same benefits for your content.
Try it for yourself!