Passive or Active Voice are phrases you may see if you’re in charge of web marketing and use Yoast to gauge how SEO friendly your blogs are. They are often flagged up together with a readability score. The readability score given by Yoast is something to be taken with a pinch of salt, it prefers very short and simple sentences which may not always be the best choice.
Passive voice sentences can sometimes feel complicated and difficult to understand what is happening. Active voice sentences are generally much clearer and simple in structure. An example of how each sentence is constructed would be:
Active Voice: John printed the report.
Passive Voice: The report was printed by John.
In the passive voice we are told what is done to someone or something, in the active voice we are told what a person or thing does.
In the business world it is better to use the active voice when possible. The active voice lessens the chance of ambiguity or misunderstanding.
The passive voice is often used when there is an unknown in the sentence. For example:
Active Voice: I’m not sure who did it, but someone has knocked my cup over.
Passive Voice: I’m not sure who did it, but my cup has been knocked over.
It is not possible to use passive voice with all verb types, in fact the passive voice can only be used with transitive verbs. Transitive verbs have an object which can then become the object of a passive sentence. Intransitive verbs do not have an object.
Whilst in many situations it is preferable to use the active voice, using the passive voice is not incorrect. Passive voice can be used to great effect when it is the action that is important, rather than the doer of the action. Here’s an example:
John was awarded his degree certificate in October.
In this case, the person who awarded the certificate is not as important as the action.
Is there any easy way to identify whether a sentence is written in the passive voice? Yes there is.
To be in the passive voice the sentence needs the verb ‘to be’ + a past participle.