What is passive voice – SEO copywriting training

By | August 17, 2019


In this lesson, we’re going to explore a quite
difficult and important piece of grammar: the passive voice. The good part? We’re going to tell you not to use it, or at least not unless you have
a very good reason to do so. The bad part? Many people overuse it in their writing
without even realizing. And if *you* do, you’re going to have
to learn to recognize a passive sentence and then rewrite it into an active one. That is the essence of what you’re going
to learn in this lesson. Now in this first video,
we’re going to tell you what the passive voice is
and what a passive sentence looks like. If you ended up in this trial lesson
from our passive voice article on yoast.com and think you’ve already got a good grasp
of what passive voice means, you may consider skipping this video
and moving on to the second video. In that video, we’ll teach you how to actually rewrite
passive sentences into active ones. For this lesson, you’ll need to know
some basic grammar: what is a subject, what is a verb,
and what is an object. If you don’t know this yet, check out the basic grammar PDF
we’ve provided in the text. If you’re not sure what passive voice is,
pay close attention. The passive voice can be really tough. Now let’s start with this: any sentence in the English language
can be one of two things: active or passive. And it’s easier to explain
what a passive sentence is, by showing what an active sentence is first. Because most sentences are active. In active sentences, the person, animal
or thing that does something, is also the subject of the sentence. Say: Michiel is building the Mack Anthem. Michiel is the person
doing something (building), and Michiel is also the subject
of the sentence. The Mack Anthem is the object. In passive sentences, the subject of the
sentence is the person, animal or thing “undergoing” the action. Say: The Mack Anthem
is being built by Michiel. Michiel is still the person
who performs an action, but the Mack Anthem is now the subject, and Michiel has become
the object of the sentence. The meaning hasn’t changed, but the voice
has changed from active to passive. There are three things
that change in the sentence: the word order is different (Michiel and
The Mack Anthem switch places), the verb changes (“is building”
becomes “is being built”), and the word “by” is added to show that
Michiel is still the one doing the building. As you can see, the active sentence and
the passive sentence mean the same thing, but the perspective is a little different. Also, the passive sentence is a bit longer. Sometimes, you can also
leave out the actor. The Mack Anthem is being built,
for example, is a perfectly acceptable sentence. It just doesn’t tell you
that Michiel did the building. By the way, one of the few cases
in which it’s actually OK to use passive voice is when you don’t know who did something,
or when it’s irrelevant who or what did it. Like when you ask:
“what is grown in these fields?”. You really just want to know
whether it’s potatoes or corn. You don’t particularly care
about the farmers that grow the crop. And “what do farmers grow
in these fields?” feels like a pretty weird question to ask,
anyway, doesn’t it? Or maybe you don’t want to share
information on the actor. Imagine a police interview, for example,
in which the policewoman says: you were seen near the scene of the crime
just fifteen minutes before. She intentionally leaves out the person
who did the seeing, to protect him. But really, those are rare examples. In a large majority of the cases, using
passive voice is completely unnecessary. Which means you should avoid it. Why? Because using the passive voice almost
always makes your writing more distant and your message less clear. There are two main reasons for this. First of all, the passive voice is wordy. Passive sentences are simply longer. Consider these two sentences: “The passive voice almost always
makes your message less clear.” That’s an active sentence. In passive voice that would be: “Your message is almost always made
less clear by using the passive voice.” You say the same thing by using the passive,
but you add three words. This can really add up
if you use it too often. Secondly, passive sentences
take longer to understand. Getting your message across with passive
sentences is much more difficult. Why? Because your reader needs to spend more
energy on making sense of the sentence. They’re simply more difficult. That’s because you only learn who was
responsible for a certain action all the way at the end of the sentence. Forming a mental image
of what is going on takes a tiny moment longer
with passive sentences. These moments can easily add up
if you overuse the passive voice. Whenever you use passive voice, always consider whether a better,
active alternative is available. Now that you know
what the passive voice is and why you should avoid it
in most cases, you’re ready for the next step: rewriting
your passive sentences into active ones. If you’re not a native speaker of English
or struggle with verb forms, we recommend you to first take a look
at the passive voice cheat sheet PDF. It shows you a four-step plan
to rewrite your passive sentences. We’re going to come back to that
in the next video. But it also shows you what active verb
corresponds with which passive verb, in present, past and future. It’s probably a good idea to study those last
ones before you watch the second video, because that will make it a lot easier. In the next video, we’ll show you
how to avoid passive sentences and rewrite passive sentences
into active ones.

One thought on “What is passive voice – SEO copywriting training

  1. Patrick Fox Post author

    Nice work…. I am really learning a great deal with these videos

    Reply

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