Enliven your Website Content with Active Voice

Enliven your Website Content with Active Voice

Whether you write website content to persuade, inform, entertain or explain – or a combination – composing your content in the active voice is always a good idea. Why? Because the active voice gives your work energy, is more concise and direct, and is easier for readers to follow.

When you write in the passive voice, you tend to weaken your writing and disrupt the flow that might otherwise engage the reader. Passive voice constructions are almost always wordier than necessary – and usually less interesting.

What’s the difference?

In active voice sentences, the subject performs an action. For example, You have three models to choose from. In a passive sentence, the subject is acted upon rather than performing an action: There are three models customers can choose from. The active voice is almost always livelier and more personal than the passive voice.

Active voice sentences help to make your work more inclusive, too. In a 2010 academic study, researchers discovered that some native English speakers found the passive construction The soldier was hit by the sailor difficult to understand.

Sometimes the distinction is subtle, but active voice sentences can help hold a reader’s interest. When you choose to say We launched our website in late 2011 rather than Our website was launched in late 2011, readers will find your text more interesting and easier to follow.

Website visitors find active voice generally more readable, but you shouldn’t abandon passive voice altogether. There are still some good reasons to use it.

You would say Abraham Lincoln was born in 1809 because you want the emphasis to be on Lincoln in this example, not on his mother. In other situations, you can use passive voice to be tactful: Shipping has been delayed because an invalid address was provided sounds better than telling a customer You gave us an invalid address and delayed shipping. Sometimes, passive voice will give your text more authority, as in The site may not be accessed by unauthorized users.

In most cases, you’ll want to use the active voice in writing your website content. You’ll find that it enlivens your content and helps your readers visualize the action.


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