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Better writing …with zombies

The passive voice is something we should usually try to avoid in marketing. With the active alternative, we communicate with our readers more clearly, quickly, and easily. But it’s easy to slip back into it.

What is the passive voice? It’s where the words concentrate on whatever’s having something done to it, rather than whatever’s doing it in the first place. A typical construction is:
[subject] + [some form of the verb to be] + [past participle of a transitive verb] + [optional prepositional phrase]

In comparison, the active voice, we concentrate on what’s doing the action, typically:
[subject] + [verb (performed by the subject)] + [optional object]

An example of business use might be:
Active (interesting): We completed your request and mailed you the form.
Passive (dull): The form was processed and returned to you.

A nice trick to test if something is active or passive is to add ‘by zombies’ after it. If the phrase still works, it’s passive (“The form was processed and returned to you by zombies.”)

This is one of many points referenced in a really good article about editing that you might like to set aside some time for. The Complete Proofreading and Editing Checklist to Publish Amazing Copy Every Time on the Coschedule blog is based around what they call “a handy proofreading and editing checklist”, but in reality the list is far too much to consider when editing your writing, or a colleague’s. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to digest its content though – it will make you a better writer if you can.