I have learned many different things from mentors and influences throughout my life. One tip I take with me wherever I go is using active voice whenever possible.
Using passive voice in documents was a pet peeve of a former manager of mine. As a result, when proofing work, the company process had a literal step for converting passive voice to active voice. What was at first a nuisance became a pet peeve of my own.
A painful example of passive voice
I once read a proposal which was drafted by a development team for project work. There were two paragraphs in the proposal, one for the UX/Design phase and one for the Development/Build phase of the project. Though the same person drafted both sections of the proposal, it looked like it was written by two separate people.
- The UX/Design phase, which was someone else’s responsibility to deliver, was written entirely in active voice. “The designer will do this.” “The UX team will do that.”
- The Development/Build phase, which the writer of the proposal would have to help deliver, was written entirely in passive voice. “Development will be completed by the team.” “The testing should adhere to certain standards.”
What does passive voice do? Let’s shift to active voice!
Passive voice inadvertently shifts accountability away from the person speaking and towards some unknowable thing.
If you want to make an impact on your own work ethic and drive accountability, shift your thinking to active voice.
DON’T SAY: The project is slated to be completed by our team by Q4 2022.
SAY: We will complete the project by Q4 2022.
Notice the difference? Stating concepts in active voice ensures that you have your ducks in a row before you move forward with delivering a message. If we all did more of it, we would have a more accountable society.