Use the active voice in writing
Which of these headlines is most likely to spur you to sign up for a webinar?
New webinar helps managers improve productivity
Get all your work done in half the time, be the office hero and go home early
The first focuses on the webinar. But the second one focuses on me doing things. That makes the second one more compelling.
Want to watch your words get shorter, your sentences sleeker? See your passive voice disappear and your readability soar? Energize your writing? Populate it with real, live humans? Focus on benefits instead of features?
Use the active voice in writing. In other words, write about people doing things.
Why use the active voice in writing?
When you write about people doing things, you:
- Improve readability. Writing in the passive voice also makes sentences and words longer and reduces readability. Take this passage:
No: Medicaid eligibility is organized by category or population each of which has different rules for how much income and resources you can have. For the most part, only citizens and qualified immigrants can qualify. The largest Medicaid categories covering most eligible individuals are Children under age 19, Parents raising children under age 19, Pregnant Women, Individuals 65 and older, and Persons with Disabilities.
The subjects of these sentences are Medicaid, citizens and categories. Write about people doing things, and you make messages easy to read:
Yes: Are you eligible for Medicaid? That depends on who you are, how high your income is and how many other resources you have. The largest groups of people who qualify for Medicaid are:
- Children under 19
- Parents raising children under 19
- Pregnant women
- People 65 and older
- People with disabilities
The difference in readability between writing about Medicaid and writing about you? Sentences are 73% shorter; words, 111% shorter; and Flesch Reading Ease is up 192%.
How long should your message be?
Would your message be twice as good if it were half as long?
Yes, the research says. The shorter your message, the more likely readers are to read it, understand it and make good decisions based on it.
Find out at Rev Up Readability — our tight-writing workshop, which starts Nov. 14.
There, you’ll use a cool (free!) tool to analyze your message for 27 readability metrics. You’ll leave with quantifiable targets, tips and techniques for measurably boosting readability.
Save up to $100 with our group discounts.