How to Use Active Voice with Strong Verbs in Plain English Writing
Most documents with unnecessary big words and long-winded sentences make readers clamor for clear words and short sentences. A quick fix lies in using the active voice with strong verbs in English writing.
Strong verbs excite, entice and tighten any sentence, causing information to spring from the page. When you start to write or edit your work, highlight all
the verbs to help you uncover passive voice. You may surprise yourself by the number of weak verbs that create passive voice, such as forms of "to be" or "to have."
Spending extra time to search for a perfect strong verb is time well spent. Because an active verb carries more meaning, you can usually use a single verb to replace many weak verbs.
Two undesirable poor writing habits create a weak sentence: passive voice
and hidden verbs
. Together, they add unnecessary length and ambiguity to a sentence. The active and passive voices
is a refresher on both the active and passive voices. Active
The reader buys the book.
In the active voice, the subject of the sentence, the reader, performs the action, buying the book. Passive
The book is bought by the reader.
In the passive voice the subject, the book, is acted upon. The person or the thing doing the action is introduced with "by." But sometimes, the person or thing doing the action is deleted, leading to... Passive with agent deleted
The book is bought.
You don't know who bought the book. You'll find many examples of the "passive with agent deleted" in poorly-written documents.
Readers understand sentences in the active voice more quickly and easily because the sentence structure follows how we think and process information. Many times the passive voice forces readers to take extra mental steps as they
convert the passive into the active