If you are new to content production, i.e. blogging, copywriting, editing, etc., then you have heard to use active language over passive language.
Active language is extremely important when communicating a message as effectively as possible.
I’m sure everyone has had this experience: You’re typing the greatest blog you’ve ever written into Microsoft Word. You type something and the dreaded brownish dotted line appears under some phrase you wrote.
I don’t mean the normal red squiggles of a misspelling or the blue line about the wrong version of “its,” I mean that the recommended edit is “passive language, consider revising,”
It’s annoying and stupid and frustrating and I hate it.
That’s my little fit about active language, but in all reality active language in important in conveying a message effectively. When everyone has something to say, you’ve got to set yourself apart from the crowd.
What is active language?
When I was in high school, I had a teacher go over the difference in active versus passive language.
It taught me nothing.
Not until I started researching tips on becoming a better freelance writer, did I learn what the real difference between active and passive language is.
Essentially, active language is when the subject of a sentence is performing the verb.
Some people need it written out, in a visual to really grasp what this means, so here is a (horribly crude) picture of what I mean.
We have the subject (the man) doing the verb (writing) to the direct object (the article).
The sentence is written as an answer to a question, but another way to say it as the man was doing the action is: “The man wrote the article.”
If the sentence were made passive, it becomes much more convoluted.
I think the picture shows it the best. Passive voice is when the subject is acted on.
In this example it is the subject (the article) that had the verb, which also needed the extra wording of a ‘be’ auxiliary, (been written) acted on it by the direct object (the man).
A summed-up version of this drawn out explanation is that active language says the same thing as passive language, but it’s less messy.
Why does it matter?
If active language and passive language mean the same thing in the end, why does it matter which one you use?
That’s easy to answer.
Active language is more actionable; it’s succinct; it also just looks nicer on paper.
Have you ever read something with a lot of words but basically no true message? Active language helps avoid that.
People’s attention span keeps getting shorter as there are more things to distract us. To get your message across as quickly as possible must be the goal.
According to Forbes, the average reading speed of an American adult is only 300 words per minute.
Our culture is extremely fast paced. We are always trying to be as productive as possible. This, ironically, leaves people with little time to read and grow. Even though there are so many free resources out there.
This all points to the need to get the message across as quickly as possible. Spit it out fast and keep the interest as high as possible while adding as much value as possible.
Offer the consumer the highest ROI possible. The least amount of time spent reading, to the most amount of info gained.
Try it out, and let me know how it works for you in the comments below.