Like many writers using the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress, Active and Passive Voice was a new concept to me, and I didn’t quite understand it at first.  Yoast was always giving me warnings that my posts had too much passive voice.  My short form articles with lots of bullet points and lists seemed to naturally trend towards the active voice. But what became especially annoying is that the better and longer I felt my writing was, the more passive my posts would become! That’s why I started practicing using the Active vs Passive Voice Quiz, and finally made a break through in my understanding.

So what is the passive voice exactly?

In Passive Voice, the subject of the sentence is acted upon by the verb. Conversely, a sentence written in Active Voice has the subject perform the action stated by the verb directly.

 The builders remodeled the house to help it sell. The house was remodeled by the builders to help it sell.
The captain will give you orders.Orders will be given to you by the captain.
The biology class viewed the frog.The frog was viewed by the biology class.
Martin posted the funny cat video on Facebook.The funny cat video was posted on Facebook by Martin.
No one responded to my new sales ad.My new sales ad was not responded to by anyone.

Why does good copywriting avoid passive voice?

Articles that are well written and easy to read avoid using passive voice.  The problem with passive sentences is that it can be hard to determine who or what is acting. The result is very removed writing that also pulls the reader out of the story even if they understand what is going on.  You should avoid passive voice or anything that makes your articles hard to read whenever you possibly can.

Are there times when it makes sense to use passive voice?

There are going to be some times when using passive voice is unavoidable.  If you are writing a scientific manuscript or guide, it will be very hard to avoid using the passive voice.  There are also instances where you could easily avoid using the passive voice, but you go with passive because it sounds more like natural speech.

And using passive voice is also a technique that is commonly used to subtly avoid responsibility.  A child might say, “The dishes got dropped,” when a more accurate active sentence would be, “I dropped the dishes.”

How To Get Better At Writing in an Active Voice

Looking at lists of examples can be an effective way to start intuiting the pattern of active and passive voice.  It can also help to write using software like Grammarly to make your writing better.  But it didn’t REALLY start clicking for me until I started practicing with quizzes based on those example lists.

Below is a quick quiz you can use to see if you have a good understanding of this concept or determine if you need a little practice like I did.

Active vs Passive Voice Quiz