Passive voice and the curse of being boring AF

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There’s a hidden force at work and it's lurking deep within your marketing copy.

It's called 'passive voice' and if left unchecked, it’ll run rife and play havoc with your success rates.

It’s time for you to get active.

Active voice.

Here are a few simple ways to check and destroy passive voice in your copy and bring it back to active town.

A quick passive voice definition

How are you going to know whether or not you’ve accidently been using a passive voice until you know what it is? Listen and learn, bro.

Passive voice usually occurs when the noun or subject of your sentence slips out of place and ends up following the verb rather than proceeding it.

Passive voice relies on something happening to the subject, rather than the subject being the one that kicks off the action.

You get me? Keep reading, you’ll catch on—promise.

Passive voice hurts copy (for realsies)

When a passive voice is used too frequently in copy, your reader becomes bored quickly. This is because writing in the passive voice comes across as flat, uninspired and non-committal.

These are all passion killers when you’re trying to engage someone or make a compelling case for conversion.

A passive voice generally goes hand in hand with far more complicated sentence structures, which we know are the enemy of effective marketing copy. You need to be short, punchy and direct. Confident, if you will.

The list goes on. Passive voice = boring.

So now that we know what passive voice is and why it’s a no-no, here’s how to tell whether or not you’re doing it…

 

Passive voice examples and how to dodge that shit altogether

USMC professor, Rebecca Johnson, recently uncovered a pretty genius way to identify whether your sentence features a passive voice...

passive voice

If you can insert the phrase ‘by zombies’ after the sentence and it still makes sense, you’re passive, bro.

Here’s an example:

The new product range was instantly snapped up.

The sentence still makes sense if we tack ‘by zombies’ onto the end, which means it is written in a passive voice and is therefore utterly boring.

You snapped up the new product range!

The verb in our sentence is 'snapped up’ and the subject is 'you'. We’ve plopped the subject at the start of the sentence in front of the verb, which tags along at the end. That sentence is so active it’s breaking a sweat and chugging a protein shake.

 

Switching to active voice

Easy! To avoid a passive tone of voice, just make sure that your subject or noun always occurs before the verb and you’re golden.

 

Hungry for more, duder? Check back next Friday for your next helping of pithy yet educational jot jot boom word jams.

Emma Cownley