The SEO Struggle: Revealing the Truth of Active Vs Passive Voice

The SEO Struggle: Revealing the Truth of Active Vs Passive Voice

Writing is a form of art that is just like other forms of art and requires you to know its important elements. In commercial writing, multiple formats have their own needs. The amount of active and passive voice in a piece of writing also comes in the list of elements that are important to maintain and differs as per the format. 

In most of the Content types, passive voice is often looked at as evil. That’s why the new emerging writers are told to avoid passive sentences in their writing. Now, since we all have learned to write in both voices, not using passive sentences is not as simple as it sounds as they naturally come to our pieces. So the question is “is it really that bad to have a passive voice in your Content?”. Let’s find out the answer to this question in today’s blog. 

What is Voice?

Let’s start from the beginning: the voice. What is Voice? In its very literal sense, voice is the sound of a living being or an instrument. However, in English grammar, voice is the form of a verb used in a sentence that tells if the subject is doing the action or the action is being done by the subject. 

These two types of voice can be used to form any English sentence. It means if you want to write a sentence in English, you can write it in two ways, either active or passive, without changing the meaning of the sentence or adding any new words. 

But, the sentence must have a direct object included. To turn an active voice into a passive one, there should be a receiver of the action. For example, “The boy is sitting on the chair.” This sentence doesn’t have a direct object; thus, it’s not possible to convert the active voice into a passive one for such sentences. 

Now, let’s discuss active and passive voice in detail to better understand the concept of voice in English. 

  • Active Voice

Active voice is the voice that prioritizes the subject in a sentence. In simple words, the subject in a sentence does the action when you write a sentence in an active voice. 

For example, “The dog is chasing the cat”. Here in this present continuous sentence, the dog is the subject who’s doing the action of chasing the cat.

  • Passive Voice

In a passive voice, the elements of the sentence change their place. The object in the sentence goes in the place of the subject, and the subject goes in the place of the object. Moreover, to keep the sentence grammatically correct, changing the verb’s form in the sentence is done. Let’s see the same example in passive voice. 

In a passive voice, the sentence will be “The cat is being chased by the dog.” Here, the cat or the object is getting more attention since its place is changed to a position that comes first in the sentence. 

Also, the verb’s form has changed, which is why, in the first sentence, the dog was seen doing the action, but now the cat can be seen receiving the action even when the dog is still doing the action.

Simply put, you somehow will realize more that “the cat is also running away from the dog” in passive voice than you do in active voice. 

Let’s move ahead.

When and Why to Use Active Voice?

Let’s start with our school life. When you were learning the English language, what did you learn first? Tenses, right? Now, the tenses you learned are the rules for creating English sentences in an active voice, whether present, past, or future. 

But why? Why were you taught active voice first and not passive? The reason is the hierarchy of these two voices in the English language. 

Active voice is used more in day-to-day life and even in other forms like writing a marketing copy, letter, essay, etc. So, the hierarchy of active voice is above passive. The reasons are also very simple. The active sentences are easy to understand. When you say, “I want water,” the receiver will immediately know that you want water. 

On the other hand, if you say, “the water is wanted by me”. It’s looking and feeling unnatural, and it’s hard to process sentences. So, you will not use this sentence to ask for water, right? 

Also, active voice is used to emphasize the subject doing the action. So, the answer to this question of when and why to use active voice is clear. Active voice is commonly used in English and can be used almost anywhere and anytime. 

But if active voice can explain anything, then why use passive voice? Let’s answer this question in the next heading. 

When and Why to Use Passive Voice?

Now, since passive voice exists, it should have a purpose. Otherwise, why should such a variation that has no use be created? So, yes, the passive voice does have uses in various instances. Moreover, when you read them, these uses make a lot of sense.

  • To Emphasize Action rather than Subject

Firstly, as you use passive voice anywhere, the emphasis quickly shifts from the doer of the action to the action itself. So, if you want to highlight the action in a sentence, it is best to use passive voice. We have discussed the same point above, so let’s take another example, as much explanation is unnecessary. 

Active Voice: John has written the book. 

Passive Voice: The book has been written by John.  

To understand the shift of the emphasis here, let’s do some imagination. 

Imagine there is a friend of yours, John who’s a writer. You have to introduce John to your other friends. So, you most probably will say, “He is John and he has written that book”. So, the emphasis here is on John, the subject. 

Let’s imagine another situation where you have a book in your hand written by John. So, while introducing the book to your friends, you will say, “This book has been written by John.” So, the emphasis now is on the book, which is the object. 

  • To Avoid using the subject

There can be many instances where you don’t need or want to use a subject. In such a case, you can use passive voice to make your sentence look complete, even when the subject is missing. Let’s understand some situations where this type of passive voice is applicable. 

Active Voice: Shruti spilled the coffee over the table. 

Passive Voice: Coffee was spilled on the table. (By Shruti)

Here, you can see how passive voice helped us not to name anyone for whatever action was taken. The same can be done if the action’s subject or doer is unknown. 

Active Voice: Someone knocked on the door. 

Passive Voice: The door was knocked. 

  • To Sound Authoritative

In many places, sounding authoritative is a must. For example, at railway stations, metro stations, or other public places, the announcements or signs should be authoritative and actionable to all the people.

Active Voice: Everyone should wear a mask to enter the premises. 

Passive Voice: Wearing a mask is mandatory to enter the premises. 

The passive voice sentence here is more authoritative and emphasises wearing a mask. Also, the passive sentence still redirects everyone to wear a mask without using an adverb. 

  • To stabilize the focus on action

Sometimes, both active and passive voice sentences are used consecutively. Doing this helps to keep the focus of the reader or listener on the object and the action rather than the subject. Let’s look at an example here to better understand this case. 

Example: Steve walked to the stage with the new Apple device. The new Apple device was then revealed to the audience. 

Here, the first sentence is in an active voice, which typically emphasises the subject. But, since the second sentence is passive, both sentences emphasize the new Apple device. 

Use of Passive Voice in Content Writing

In content writing, many new writers interpret the use of passive voice as taboo. Simply put, they believe using passive voice is terrible for content writing. However, that’s not the case. Well, let’s leave this debate topic for the next heading and focus on using passive voice in content writing.

In content writing, writing reports has an extensive use of passive voice. Reports contain much content where the action is more important than its doer. 

The police station in North West Delhi was robbed in broad daylight

This sentence is totally focused on the action, as the doer of the action is obviously the robber, and mentioning that makes no sense. 

Sometimes, the reports also need to cover a piece of news where the name can’t be published, like the victim’s name. So, the writer has to use passive voice for such coverings as well. 

Similarly, there are research papers that also contain an increased amount of passive voice. The reason is again the emphasis on actions like discoveries. 

However, the same is not the case with other writing formats like blogs, articles, emails, and newsletters. These formats are primarily written in active voice, but the need to write in passive voice can also occur in these formats. 

What is the Active vs Passive Voice Debate in Content Writing? 

To this point, you know exactly what the uses of active and passive voice are. Both voices have their own importance in the English language. However, there is still a debate around the topic of using active and passive voice. What is it? 

When we write in an active voice, the message is clear for two main reasons. 

  • Firstly, the sentence uses a structure that you and almost everyone are more familiar with which are the standard tenses. 
  • Secondly, there is no use of extra words, which is not true in the case of passive voice. 

Writing in passive voice mostly requires more words than active voice. 

For example, “The boy rides the bike to college and parks in the parking lot.” 

Let’s convert the sentence into a passive voice. 

“The bike is ridden to the college by the boy and is parked in the parking lot.” While the first sentence uses only 13 words, the passive one contains 17 words to tell the same thing. This is why passive voice becomes hard to read and understand. 

So, from this point of view, if you use a lot of passive voice in your writing pieces, you’ll end up getting a piece with low readability. Hence, it results in a rule where the use of passive voice is capped to some percentage. 

If you use tools like Hemingway Editor or Yoast SEO, these tools reflect a quantity of passive voice that can be used in a particular piece. So, if you go beyond that limit, it will decrease the readability of your content. 

Simply put, the use of passive voice is not prohibited in writing, but you should be careful with its use. Using the passive voice just to rephrase a blog doesn’t make it new but instead makes it harder to read and understand. The above use cases of passive voice in writing and, in general, are the natural uses of passive voice. 

How to change the passive voice into an active voice?

Imagine this: you have done writing a piece of Content and the readability is coming very bad. Readability is an important factor in judging any content as hard-to-read content mostly gets less engagement. So, you can’t ignore the less readability score. 

Then, what can you do? Of Course, you’ll have to edit the content and you may also need to convert passive Voices into active voices. The reason is many a time excessive use of Passive voice in the content which is recommended around 10%. So, let’s look at the process of turning passive voice into active voice. 

You should first identify the sentences that need to be changed. You can use tools like Hemingway Editor. This tool is great to use in such a case for two reasons. 

  • Firstly, it tells you the upper limit of passive voice that you can have in your content and also tells how much passive voice is there in your content. 
  • Secondly, it helps you look at the hard and very hard sentences in your content. So, you can understand what’s the cause of low readability and if it’s passive voice then what are the sentences that are passive and coming hard or very hard to read? 

Once you are done identifying the sentences, changing the passive voice into the active voice is like flipping a sentence to make it more clear and direct. Let’s break it down with some examples:

Passive: The cake was eaten by me.

Active: I ate the cake.

In the passive sentence, “the cake” is the focus, but we don’t know who did the action until the end. In the active sentence, “I” is the subject doing the action, which makes it clearer.

Here’s another example:

Passive: The book was read by Sarah.

Active: Sarah read the book.

In the passive version, we don’t know who read the book until the end of the sentence. In the active version, it’s straightforward – Sarah is the one doing the reading.

To change passive voice into active voice:

1. Identify the subject doing the action.

2. Move the subject to the beginning of the sentence.

3. Make the subject the doer of the action (the verb).

By following these steps, you can easily change passive sentences into active ones, making your writing clearer and more engaging.

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, this is how important it is to notice the amount of Passive sentences you are using. Ultimately there is no direct prohibition on using passive sentences, but the way they are created makes them much more complex. 

So, it is better to first know about the real uses of passive voice and then use them in your Content. Moreover, to get rid of irrelevant passive sentences in your writing you should follow the above instructions. This way you’ll get an outcome that will be in its best form possible. 

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