Our writing should be concise and direct. We prefer the active voice because it supports brevity and makes written content more engaging, too.
The active voice helps the reader identify the subject of the sentence. In the following examples, the person who submits the form and saves the case number is essential information. Omitting that leads to a confusing, impersonal, and longer sentence.
- Passive: The request form must be submitted to the approving official.
- Active: You must submit the request form to the approving official.
- Passive: The case number should be saved in your records.
- Active: Save the case number in your records.
When in doubt, cut directly to the verb and give the reader clear directions.
How to recognize the passive voice
Use of the passive voice is common enough that many people don’t notice when they use it. Here’s a simple way to recognize it, courtesy of Dr. Rebecca Johnson: If you insert “by zombies” after the verb and the sentence still makes sense (“the banana was eaten by zombies”), you’re using the passive voice.
On this page