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Clear And Simple Writing: Get Active

Get active.  Yes. Another way to keep our writing clear and simple is to use  Active Voice rather than the Passive Voice in your writing. Now comes your question: What are you talking about?

What is Active Voice?

A simple way to define active voice is to say – when the subject in a sentence is doing the action.

In Active Voice the subject ‘acts’.

Let’s look at some examples:

Shirin loves Ashok.   The sentence is clearly about Shirin (subject) and she is doing the action.  She loves ‘Ashok’ (the object).

 I heard the news today.  ‘I’ is the subject – doing the action-  hearing ‘the news’ (the object .

What is Passive Voice?

In the passive voice – the subject receives the action of the verb.

In Passive Voice the subject is ‘acted upon’.

So the sentence ‘Shirin loves Ashok‘ in passive voice would read: Ashok is loved by Shirin.

The sentence ‘I heard the news today’ (active voice) would read: The news was heard by me today.  (passive voice).


                                                                                                                                               Source: Uploaded by user via Kirstan on Pinterest


Why use the Active Voice in writing?

Sentences in active voice make it clear who is doing what.  They are shorter and show more energy.


I carried the bag. (Active)     with   The bag was carried by me. (Passive)

You are making too much noise. (Active)    with     Too much noise is being made by you. (Passive).

I called the police to report the robbery. (Active)  with    The police were called (by me) to report the robbery (Passive)  or  The robbery was reported (by me) to the police. (Passive).

In official letter writing, when you use the active voice you are being more positive. You take credit for doing something and customers will appreciate this more.

Compare : I will reverse the transaction and credit your account with Rs.1000/- (Active)   with    The transaction will be reversed and your account will be credited with Rs.1000/- (Passive)

You might use the passive voice in situations where you don’t want to be blamed or don’t want to blame!

Compare: I sent you the notice by mistake.  (Active)    with     The notice was sent to you by mistake. (Passive)

Want to try some re-writes?  Change these sentences to active voice:

The streets around the crime scene had been blocked off by the police.

The house was broken into by the robber while the owners were on vacation.

These books had been left on the playground by a careless student.




  1. Inspiring Citizen Rafi Inspiring Citizen Rafi January 29, 2013


    Active voice is more powerful. You gave me a new insight. Thank you very much..I have never bothered to see the difference..

    I am more conscious now and you are my inspirations.


  2. Diana Pinto Diana Pinto October 16, 2012

    The police blocked off the streets around the crime scene.
    The robber broke into the house while the owners were at vacation.
    A careless student left these books on the playground….:)

  3. G Angela G Angela October 8, 2012

    Thanks for this exercise corinne:
    The police blocked the crime scene on the streets
    while the owners went on vacation, the robbers broke into their house
    A careless student left her books at the play ground …

    I made an attempt .. hope this is ok ?

  4. Jeevan Jacob John Jeevan Jacob John October 8, 2012

    Agree with you, Corinne. I like active voice better than passive (who doesn’t?). It is almost always better for building the relationships with our customers.

    I think I have used passive voice in my posts (gets in between sentences).

    Anyways, appreciate the tip! Here is what I think they should be:

    Police blocked off the streets where the crime took place (or streets around the crime scene)

    The robber broke into the house while owners were on vacation.

    A careless student left his books on the playground (this might be a bit wrong since the gender of the subject isn’t mentioned).

  5. Susan Dusterhoft Susan Dusterhoft October 8, 2012

    Thanks for sharing! Always love to get a refresher on writing techniques whenever I am able!

  6. Roshni Roshni October 7, 2012

    In the cartoon, it states that the passive voice is “The mouse was eaten by the cat” while the active voice states “the mouse ate the cat”!!! 😀

  7. Latha Latha October 6, 2012

    The police blocked the streets around the crime scene.
    The robbers broke into the house when the owners were on a vacation
    A careless student left these books on the playground.

    Yahoo…hope I passed…:)

  8. Brenda Brenda October 6, 2012

    Good reminder. Active verbs brings the prose alive. The writer in me strives to eliminate all passive verbs by the final edits. I spend much of my time in rewrite mode. A writer’s life.

  9. b k chowla b k chowla October 6, 2012

    Thanks for sharing.Frankly,i never looked at this aspect so critically.

  10. Jenn Jenn October 6, 2012

    What a great online course for us to read. Nice refresher for some, I’m sure!!

    Cheers, Jenn.

  11. Fab Fab October 6, 2012

    Informative post, Corinne!!

  12. Vishnu Vishnu October 6, 2012

    Thanks so much for sharing Corinne – I always get confused between active and passive (and not sure why I got so hooked to the passive voice)

    the police blocked off the streets around the crime scene.
    robber broke into the house & careless student left these books.

    I need about ten more of these:) to make sure my writing is more awake!

  13. janu janu October 5, 2012

    Thanks for this e-learning crash course.
    1. The Police have block the streets around the crime scene.
    I just have the energy for this one.

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