Of the following sentences, which sounds better?
The article was written by Cassie.
Cassie wrote the article.
Different people can have different opinions on this, but I would almost always choose sentence number two. The difference between these sentences is their voice: the first sentence uses passive voice, while the second uses active voice. Passive voice means the subject of the sentence receives the action, while active voice means just that, the subject acts. Some writers may think passive voice is always incorrect, while some may think it has its merits in certain situations. It may be acceptable in some contexts, however, marketing is not one of them.
Active Voice in Marketing
If you’re writing content for marketing, you want the content to be readable and compelling. You can do this by using active voice and it is especially helpful.
Let’s say you’re selling a new food product, like applesauce, and your goal is to get parents to purchase it for their kids.
In passive voice: Our applesauce will be loved by your kids.
Would that phrasing make people want to buy the product? Probably not—it’s weak, and the wordiness makes it clunky and awkward.
Instead, try the active voice: Your kids will love our applesauce!
Choosing active voice versus passive voice is all about the focus of your sentence. In marketing contexts, you want your audience to see themselves using the product—the audience should be the focus.
Recognizing Passive Voice (And Why It Can Be a Problem)
There are a few things I look for when avoiding passive voice. The first is the preposition by. By is one of the most common ways to recognize passive voice; it usually appears between the action and the subject.
Example: That repair job was done by our newest employee.
This sentence construction places emphasis on the action rather than the subject. If the focus was the employee and not the repair job, we might say, “Our newest employee did the repair job.” Because the subject in marketing is often the audience or intended user, you want to be sure to place the focus on them.
Another common indicator of passive voice is an absent or implied subject.
Example: Our company was chosen 9/10 times.
Without a subject acting, this sentence doesn’t say much. Your audience will want to know WHO chose your company 9/10 times. Leaving the subject out of the action, especially in business communication, can seem dishonest or evasive. It’s like saying “a mistake was made” rather than “I made a mistake.” There’s no ownership. Honesty is important to consumers, and writing in active voice is a great way to take responsibility.
Overall, active voice is much easier and more exciting to read—and isn’t that what we all want from marketing copy? Whether we’re writing about services or writing about products, we want to engage our audiences and encourage them to keep reading. Making sure you’re writing in active voice instead of passive voice is an easy way to do that.
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