(Struck by) The Passive Curse



Writers like to avoid the passive voice. And if you speak to many of them about it, you’re likely to get a pretty brutal condemnation in response.


That’s because ‘avoid the passive voice’ is a pretty important and fundamental rule of decent quality copy. While that’s by no means a hard and fast rule (no style convention is), it’s definitely worth paying attention to when you can.


What’s the passive voice?


Passive voice sentences obscure the subject: the person or thing ‘doing’ verb in a sentence.


Here’s a very basic active sentence:


‘The woman hit the dog.’


This is about as basic and fundamental as sentences in English get. It consists of a subject – ‘the woman’, a verb ‘hit’, and an object – ‘the dog’.


Passive sentence constructions place the emphasis on the object of a sentence, at the expense of the subject. The passive version of this same sentence looks like this:


‘The dog was hit (by the woman).’


As you can see, the subject can be added in later, by way of a preposition, but it’s not baked into the syntax like it is with an active sentence.


Avoid the passive voice in your article content writing


There are two central reasons why the passive voice isn’t ideal in digital copy.

The sentence construction avoids revealing fundamental and important information. In general, the more passive voice that someone uses in their article content writing, the less trustworthy they are.


Compare this passive sentence:


‘Our product is widely regarded as among the best in the industry.’


To its active counterpart:


‘Reviewers regard our product as among the best in the industry.’


See the point? The passive voice lets people get away with presenting generalisations, hearsay and outright lies as statements of objective fact. Don’t do that.

The second reason is that active sentences are more immediate and easier for the reader to digest.


Website SEO copywriting, and indeed most forms of digital writing, should aim to be short, immediate, and rely on simple constructions to convey important information. The more convoluted the sentence, the trickier the fundamental meaning is to decipher.


If you want to find out more about how you can take advantage of this and more of our expert article content writing expertise here at InsideCopy, contact us, or find out more about our website SEO copywriting services right here.

Matt Rooke About the author
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