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Identifying and eliminating Passive Voice.

Making the transition from school life to work life has more than a few complications. You have your degree and you’re ready to take the world by storm!

…Or are you? Consider the following:

  • Is something as basic as your grammar up to snuff?
  • Do you ever find yourself using passive voice, or worse yet, do you struggle to recognize it?

I sent off an email that I thought made complete sense. In MY head it sounded correct. It simply said “The document has been uploaded” in response to a question. In this situation, I even had to ask where the passive voice was.

That is passive voice, since you’re left asking “Who uploaded the document?”- I should have said “I uploaded the document.”

 

The definition of a  passive voice is where you promote an action as the subject of a line. An example is “I wrote this article”, which is active. “This article was written by me.” is passive, and pointlessly bloated. Rule of thumb is to always put you (the subject) ahead of the action.

It wasn’t until after reading this that I realized how ambiguous my email was. being clear, direct, and concise are skills that will carry you in the professional world. Striving to make sure your writing is as clear to the reader as it is to the writer is critical. Just because it makes sense in your head does not mean everyone else will interpret it the same way.

 

In a business setting, eliminate all usage of passive voice– especially when doing project coordination, or speaking with a client. Every action must have a clear owner that comes first, and every project needs someone responsible for completing a task- adhering to the RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) model.

 

Thinking in passive voice is to drastically eliminate your effectiveness and accountability- It’s not something innocuous, such as the your and you’re grammar problem or the “ums” in most people’s speech; it detaches all ownership of actions, making it hard to trace who did what, which propagates confusion.

 

Using direct language will ensure everyone is on the same page.
Dennis Yu :Dennis Yu is the CEO of Blitzmetrics. He is an internationally recognized lecturer in Facebook marketing, having been featured in The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, LA Times, National Public Radio, TechCrunch, Fox News, and CBS Evening News. He is also a regular contributor for Adweek's SocialTimes column. Dennis has held leadership positions at Yahoo! and American Airlines. He studied Finance and Economics from Southern Methodist University and London School of Economics. Besides being a Facebook data and ad geek, you can find him eating chicken wings or playing Ultimate Frisbee in a city near you. You can contact him at dennis@blitzmetrics, his blog, or on Facebook.

View Comments (1)

  • Great post Dennis. I never thought about how passive voice is less informationally dense than active voice. Passive voice writing is a slippery hole to fall into since people have a tendency to write the way they think. People think in terms of passive voice since it put the object of their experience first and the subject being themselves occurs in the brain by default.