Is, Passive Voice killing your article strength? Let’s understand how to “Avoid Passive Voice” and replace with the active voice to boost your article ranking.
What is Active Voice & Passive voice?
As per the grammatical rules of English, in sentences, there is a
subject: who is doing something a.k.a. the actor.
and an object: to which something is done a.k.a. the receiver.
In the active voice the subject acts upon the object and in the passive voice, the object is acted upon by the subject. The difference occurs in the emphasis given to which part of the sentence.
So, if the emphasis is laid on the subject, i.e. Garry played the guitar, it is an active voice and if the emphasis is laid on the object, i.e. the guitar was played by Garry, it is a passive voice.
Avoid Passive Voice, Why?
1. It takes more words
Usage of active and passive voices alter the sentence structure, while active voices are straightforward and require fewer extra words, passive voices are not so, uses extra words to complete the sentences.
While using active voice will give you more space for content, space will be limited in the usage of word-heavy passive voice.
The word usage affects your website content in multiple ways:
- You will have less room to fill with content for articles with a word limit.
- The lengthy sentences are harder to understand, especially for people whose primary language isn’t English.
2. Passive voice is just harder to understand
Even if people reading your content knows English, even then the structure of sentences in passive voice is harder to understand. This is true for the well-read too.
It becomes harder to form a clear mental image required to fully understand the sentence. Readers will have to spend more energy to understand smaller parts of your paragraphs, this will make it harder to make sense of the whole paragraphs and make them exhausted before even finishing the page.
If readers will end up understanding less from your content, your website will suffer in the end. Active alternatives should always be a priority.
Avoid Passive Voice, not always:
There are some exceptions where you need to avoid Passive Voice as they explain the article better than active voice. Let’s read them out:
1. When the focus is on the object/ receiver
If the object is more important that the subject in the context of the page, a passive voice is a more suitable alternative. In certain cases, it is just better to choose the passive voice for the understandability of the content.
For example, the sentence: “the tender was approved by the committee” is better than “the committee approved the tender” as the intention is to tell that the tender was approved.
In these cases, putting the subject first will just decrease the value of the sentence.
2. When there is no subject/ actor or it is less relevant
When the sentences don’t have a well-defined subject or actor, it cannot be switched with the object, so there is no proper active alternative.
For example, the sentence: “My car was stolen on yesterday” is more relevant than “Someone stole my car yesterday” as the important message is that the owner’s car was stolen.
When the usage of active voice makes the sentences weaker, it is just better to go with a strong passive version.
Importance of converting Passive Voice to Active Voice
Plugins such as Yoast SEO scan your web content for the possible changes needed. This includes analysis of the readability of your content. Let’s check out the important pointers:
1. To increase reader understandability
As discussed above, passive voice costs more words per sentence and end up decreasing user comprehension due to their complex structure. And in web content, easy is the way to go.
Passive voice makes the content downright unattractive. So, unless you explicitly need to use the passive voice, you’re better off with using active voice.
2. Incorrect detection by crawlers and search engines
The crawlers used by search engines are, in the end, lines of code written by humans, which are made better by correcting bugs. But they are nowhere near perfect and the complexity of human language makes them make mistakes very often.
To minimize these mistakes, you should try to keep your sentences as simple and to the point as possible. This will make your content easy to analyze as passive voice analysis may fail to analyze your content sometimes.
How to convert passive voice to active voice
Now that we have covered the importance of using active voices in sentences, it is time to understand how to convert passive voices into active ones.
There are two changes that take place while rewriting a passive voice to an active voice:
- Verb Changes
- Switch actor and receiver
The first task is to check which sentences are passive in nature. To identify these the following keywords can be looked out for:
- Has been
- Have been
- Will be
We have taken our targeted sentence to be: “The lazy dog was jumped over by the quick brown fox.” After locating your targeted sentence(s), the following steps need to be followed:
Step 1: Locate your subject
As mentioned above, the subject is the person doing something, or the actor. In our sentence, the fox is the subject as it is the one who is an actor.
Step 2: Locate your object
Also, as mentioned above, the object is the thing something is done to or the receiver. In our sentence, the dog is the receiver.
Step 3: Switch your sentence around
The simple format for an active sentence is: WHO is doing WHAT to WHOM. The WHO is your subject, the WHOM being the object and the action being the WHAT.
For reference look at these examples prepared by the Yoast Academy Blog:
A book is bought by me.
I buy a book.
Present simple continuous
A book is being bought by me.
I am buying a book.
A book has been bought by me.
I have bought a book.
A book was bought by me.
I bought a book.
Past simple continuous
A book was being bought by me.
I was buying a book.
A book had been bought by me.
I had bought a book.
A book will be written by me.
I will write a book.
A book will have been written by me.
I will have written a book.
The bottom line:
Website content should be written in Active Voice. Passive voices should be avoided wherever possible unless it is explicitly the need for the correct representation of your message.