Activate Your Writing


In my last post, I talked about why you should write in active voice rather than passive or without the word "is." If you think like I do, ideas come out in passive voice. With time, I find that I can think in active voice. But when facing a blank page, I write to get my ideas down and do not worry about the exact words I use. Then, I go back to edit, clean up the words, and change the passive voice to active voice.

Some tricks I use when editing into active voice:

  • Turn the object into an introduction or adjective. "I am a Mom” becomes "As a Mom, …" "My dog is brown" becomes "My brown dog..." When I find that my dog’s color does not add relevant meaning to the rest of the sentence, I leave it out. Likewise, does your clients’ age, race, or circumstance matter? If not, leave it out.

  • Change present perfect into present tense. "Your gift is helping" becomes "Your gift helps." "I am winning" becomes "I have a higher score than..."

  • Add a subject or specify the actor in your sentence. "My house is messy" becomes "My husband and son messed up the house."

  • Remove extraneous words. "It is important that ..." Becomes "Importantly,..." "We are able to" becomes "We can."

  • Use another verb, especially for descriptive sentences. "The sky is blue" becomes "In this light, the sky looks blue." As I recall from physics and astronomy classes, the latter also more correctly describes that sky’s color as it actually has no color until light reflects through its water crystals, but that conveys more information that you needed! "Appears," "becomes," "seems" and “conveys” work well for this kind of sentence structure as well.


What other ways can you think of?

As these examples demonstrate, writing in active voice can also shorten your prose, important when trying to write a one page annual fund letter or outline your program in 3,000 characters for a grant application.

I reiterate my challenge ... Try to write a paragraph or document in active voice and see what a difference it makes. It gets easier with practice, I promise!!