Difference between active voice and passive voice

When I was teaching freelance writing at the University, the difference between active voice and passive voice was something we discussed regularly. It’s much easier to write with a passive voice than active, but the benefits of turning it around are powerful.

First, your writing is more concise as you will be using fewer words.
Second, the meaning of your writing will be clear.
Third, the words you use will be more vibrant.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

Here are some examples to help you understand the difference between an active voice and a passive voice:

Passive – The envelope was opened by the manager.
Active – The manager opened the envelope.

Instead of writing:
The main switch should be turned on; or
It is recommended…

Reword the instructions to read:
Turn on the main switch; or
I/We recommend…

Readability Statistics

Computer programs are very clever. They can tell when you have written a passive phrase. A green line appears on your computer screen underneath the passive sentence or part of the sentence. This is your wake-up call; now is the time to rewrite it to make it active.

Simply click on Tools in your Word document then click Spelling and Grammar and tick the box to Check Grammar. If this box is active, it will check the grammar as you type.

You can also get readability statistics from your computer program. Go to Tools, Options, Spelling and Grammar and tick the Show readability statistics.

After spelling and grammar have been checked, the following will appear:

Readability Statistics


Words                                    446
Characters                         2,376
Paragraphs                              31
Sentences                                15


Sentences per paragraph    1.5
Words per sentence           17.9
Characters per word            5.1



Passive sentences                        33%   *
Flesch Reading Ease                 48.6% **
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level     10.9   ***

*        The percentage should be as low as possible, try to keep it under 10%.
**      The higher the score, the easier it is to read. Aim for between 60 and 70 per cent.
***     For most standard documents, aim for a level of around 10 to 11.

Readability is everything.

(For the record, the passive sentence percentage for this post was only 4%.)

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