Module: The Writing Craft
Time: 7 minutes

In a nutshell: What is active voice?

Active voice happens when the subject of a sentence performs the action described (the verb) in that sentence. It is a form of structuring the components of your sentences to make them feel more alive; closer to the reader. In the context of business writing, active voice is an important tool because it makes your content more engaging and powerful.

Examples

Active: The man picked up the basket.

Passive voice counterpart: The basket was picked up by the man.

Subject (the man) performs the action described by the verb (pick) 

Active: Everyone loves Eric; he’s a fantastic speaker.

Passive voice counterpart: A fantastic speaker, Eric was loved by all.
Subject (everyone) performs the action described by the verb (love)

The technique is powerful because it makes your writing more accessible. It becomes easier for the audience to understand and experience what they’re reading about. In addition to this, it keeps the pace of the writing going. It feels like someone who was there is telling the story – and not someone who’s had it told to them.

In 7 minutes, you’ll be able to tell active voice apart from passive voice, and use this technique for your content.

Workshop goal: You are able to identify active voice-sentences and use them purposefully in your business writing.

Steps

  1. Write down a sentence or pick one from one of your existing pieces of content. 1 min
  2. Identify the subject and action in your sentence. The subject is the person, thing, place or idea that is doing or being something. In other words: The protagonist of the sentence. The action is what’s being performed in the sentence, and is described by a verb. 2 mins
  3. Check to see whether the sentence is in active or passive voice. You check this by asking the following: Is the subject of my sentence performing the action in the sentence? 1 min
  4. Write three sentences to describe a recent experience using only active voice-sentences. Pay attention to how this makes your text more lively to read. 3 mins

Now you’ve learnt how to identify active voice-sentences, and started working on how to use them in a business writing context. Once you internalise this technique, your audience will feel a stronger and closer connection to your content and you’ll have more fun writing it, too.