What is Active Voice in Writing?

Cover image for a blog post explaining what active voice is in writing.

What is active voice in writing? What is passive voice? More importantly, why should you care?

The cat ate food.

The food was eaten by the cat.

First impressions: which sentence flows best? Which sentence do you like the most? The first sentence uses active voice, while the second uses passive voice.

In this guide, we’ll dive into the dynamics of active vs. passive voice. Then, we’ll explore exactly why most content writing platforms recommend the former over the latter.

Let’s get to it.

What is Passive Voice in Writing?

Passive voice is the literary equivalent of a limp noodle. In a passive sentence, the subject of the sentence — the person, animal, inanimate object etc. — is acted upon by the verb.

🚧Passive Sentence Construction in a Nutshell

To construct a passive sentence, you need:

  • A subject (Sarah)
  • An object (the chicken coop)
  • A conjugated version of “to be” (was)
  • Your verb’s past participle (was cleaned vs. cleaned, for example)

Nearly all passive sentences also include a preposition (byafter or since, for instance).

The chicken coop was cleaned by Sarah.

That sentence reads like a cobblestone street, doesn’t it. You feel yourself stumbling over the various parts of speech. Not so good from a content writing perspective.

Let’s break our previous sentence down:

The chicken coop (object) was (conjugated form of “to be”) cleaned (past tense verb) by (preposition) Sarah (subject).


More Passive Sentence Examples

The car was covered in rust.

Directions will be given to you by the organizer.

A dozen cupcakes were baked by mom.

The kittens were hidden by the mother cat.

What is Active Voice in Writing?

Active voice brings your story to life. Forget overcooked pasta: active voice is a dish made from hatch chili peppers and sun-ripened tomatoes. In an active sentence, the subject acts autonomously.

🚧Active Sentence Construction in a Nutshell

To construct an active sentence, you need:

  • A subject (Sarah)
  • An object (the chicken coop)
  • A verb (cleans)

You’ll find the subject right at the beginning of an active sentence — ahead of the verb.

Sarah cleans the chicken coop.


That sentence is much shorter — and it goes straight to the point. It’s much easier to digest. You lose the preposition (by) and gain a smoother reading experience.

Now let’s pull our active sentence apart:

Sarah (subject) cleans (verb) the chicken coop (object).

More Active Sentence Examples

Rust covered the car.

The organizer will give you directions.

Mom baked a dozen cupcakes.

The mother cat hid her kittens.

Why Should I Avoid Passive Voice?

What if other people use passive voice? Is it ever okay to use passive voice in content marketing?

In short, not really.

One of the biggest problems with passive voice is its lack of immediacy. Successful marketing content uses an engaging tone to draw the reader in, and passive voice just isn’t very engaging.

Disengaged readers leave websites very quickly. You can optimize your content to reduce your bounce rate and hold reader attention. That’s where active voice comes in.

Why is Active Voice Important?

People (your audience) end up on your site because they’re on a quest for answers. They’re not looking for anything complex: they just want to know about your product or service.

Here are three more reasons why active voice is a vital part of content marketing:

It’s Much Easier to Read

Active voice is much easier to read than passive voice. Website content in active voice flows easily and feels more natural.

Active voice: Our family saw the June 2020 lunar eclipse.

Passive voice: The lunar eclipse in June 2020 was seen by our family.

Passive voice is clunky. Imagine how exhausting it would be to read an entire page full of content like that.

It’s More Concise

If you’re writing marketing content, less is more. You need to get to the point — and you need to get there quickly. The end goal is to get people to go down your sales funnel, and you won’t get there if you choose passive sentence construction.

Active voice: The Earth’s shadow covered the moon.

Passive voice: The moon was covered by the shadow of the Earth.

There are six words in the active sentence, and ten in the passive sentence. That’s almost double the amount of text.

In short, active voice can help you cut your page content in half, volume wise, and still make the grade.

It Conveys Authority

To turn visitors into customers (and hopefully into repeat customers), you need to create a feeling of authority on your site. Punchy content written in the active voice can help you get there.

Ultimately, active content speaks directly to the reader. Active voice takes responsibility — it’s credible, straightforward and efficient.

Active voice: We ship all orders within 24 hours, and we fully guarantee our products for two years.

Passive voice: All orders are shipped within 24 hours and products are fully guaranteed for two years.


Which version of the statement sounds more believable to you? Which one sounds more immediate? Which one sounds less pretentious? Active voice is convincing; passive voice creates a barrier between you and your customer.

Winding Up

Passive voice is noncommittal. It skirts every issue, it feels indecisive and it looks clumsy on the page. In contrast, active voice takes control, conveys authority and reads smoothly. The winner for web content? Active voice — hands down.

ALSO – The Complete Guide to Using Formal Titles in AP Style

Meghan McKenzie

Article by

Meghan heads up Enterprise Sales with Crowd Content and comes with 10 years of sales and marketing experience. She loves selling awesome writing services that are proven to work, because she'd rather express herself through eating cheese and drinking wine and leave the writing to the pros.

Powered by Crowd Content image

Content Creation for Your Blog

Learn more
Content Marketing

How Using Message Maps Can Boost Your Content Creation

Continue reading

Writers Hub

Writer Spotlight: Jenn MacDonald — Yes, It Started With a …

Continue reading

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>