Get to the Point Quickly: Using the Active Voice in Online Content

Getting to the point quickly creates effective online content, and using the active voice is the easiest way to accomplish that. It gives your writing a natural sense of urgency. Front-loading your sentences is the basic premise of writing in the active voice. In it, the subject is the one doing the action.

To create the active voice:

  1. start with the subject
  2. follow with a strong action verb
  3. follow the verb with a direct object.

While using the passive voice is sometimes necessary, it hurts your online content in several ways:

  • Creates longer, more convoluted sentences
  • Makes information more difficult to understand
  • Results in much weaker sentences

Besides giving your content a sense of urgency, there are other benefits to using the active voice. Understanding the difference between active and passive voice allows you to write stronger, more compelling copy.

Benefits of using the active voice in online content

Adding a sense of urgency and immediacy to your writing isn’t the only benefit of writing online content in the active voice. The active voice makes your writing more:

  • direct
  • confident
  • concise.

Your readers benefit from content written in the active voice because it’s easier to follow and understand. It also keeps the responsibility on the subject, or doer of an action. Consider this sentence:

  • A large group of employees face the possibility of being laid off by defense contractors, who are facing deep cuts to defense spending.

Written passively, this sentence takes the onus off the defense contractors. Rewriting the sentence using the active voice is more direct and more honest:

  • Defense contractors may lay off a large group of employees if the looming cuts to defense spending take place.

Major difference between active and passive voice

The biggest difference between using the active voice and using the passive voice is in how the action takes place. Active voice puts the subject doing the action; passive voice puts the subject as being acted upon by the action instead of doing it. Consider these sentences:

  • Active: The employees grumbled about the new workplace policies.
  • Passive: The new workplace policies caused the employees to grumble.

Front-loading sentences is a must in writing online content. The difference between active and passive voice, then, makes active voice the clear choice to put the most important information first. Not only can the passive voice confuse your readers, it sometimes makes them lose interest.

Imperative sentences and the active voice

In some active sentences, the subject (doer of the action) is implied although not expressly stated. This is the case with imperative sentences, where the subject of “you” is implied. You are directly addressing the reader, and the reader becomes the doer of the action (in theory at least).

  • Example: Use the active voice to keep your writing stronger, clearer and more concise.

Sometimes writing in the passive voice is necessary, but aim to stay in the active voice as much as possible. The art of writing well incorporates both. What makes you stand out as a writer, whether you write for yourself or write for to earn cash, is knowing when and how to use the active and passive voices appropriately.