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July 2005 - Write in Active Voice

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John Kline, PhD, inspirational and motivational keynote and after-dinner speaker and corporate trainer.July 2005

Write in Active Voice

Most good writing uses active voice rather than passive voice. In active voice the subject does an action to something else. In passive voice the subject receives the action and sometimes the reader canít tell who did it. Here are three rules to help you use active voice.

Put the noun before the verb.  Put the actor or doer before the action or the thing being done. Write The dog bit the man, not The man was bitten by the dog. Instead of writing The accounting rules were broken by the auditors, write The auditors broke the accounting rules. Instead of writing Appropriate business attire should be worn by all attendees, write All attendees should wear appropriate business attire.

Drop part of the verb.   Passive voice often results from including unneeded verbs or overusing be verbs such as am, is, was, were, be, being and been. Consider the following examples. Instead of writing The list is given on page two, write The list is on page two, or The list appears on page two. Instead of writing She made a deposit of one hundred dollars, write, She deposited one hundred dollars.

Use a different verb.   Donít write The vase has not been received. Write instead, The vase has not arrived. Donít write The correct format is shown in Speaking Effectively. Say The correct format appears in Speaking Effectively or Speaking Effectively provides the correct format.

Follow these three rules and be on your way to writing in active voice.

John Kline
Montgomery, Alabama

July 2005 - Write in Active Voice
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