Monday, November 08, 2010

Voice, Part 5: When Active Voice Works

If, as I noted in the previous post, passive voice has a place in excellent writing, then when is active voice preferable? Three main considerations often stand out: conciseness, clarity, and fluency.

1. Conciseness. In the example below, active voice achieves greater economy.

Passive: It was noted by Caroline that security precautions which were created in the Bostick plant will not be followed by the Shelling plant. (24 words)

Active: Caroline noted that the Shelling plant will not follow the security precautions that the Bostick plant created. (17 words)

2. Clarity. The next example shows how active voice achieves greater transparency.

Passive: Although dissent was heard, a decision was made that the operation be terminated.

Active: Although the production manager dissented, the safety director decided to terminate the operation.

3. Fluency. In this example, the active is preferable because it sounds more like natural speech.

Passive: Consideration will be given to candidates to be interviewed if the qualifications are met.

Active: The company will consider interviewing qualified candidates.