Success Tweet 114: Write in the Active, Not Passive, Voice

I’m in the home stretch of a series of blog posts that further explain the career advice in Success Tweets: 140 Bits of Common Sense Career Success Advice, All in 140 Characters or Less, my latest career success coach book.  I’m going to be sorry when this series is finished.  I hope you’re enjoying reading it as much as I’m enjoying writing it. 
Success Tweets is about to go into its third printing.  That really pleases me.  It has become a greater success than I thought it would be.  You can pick up a copy at your local bookstore or at  Better yet, you can download it for free at

Today’s career advice comes from Success Tweet 114…

Use the active voice in your writing.  Say “I suggest we do this,” rather than “It is suggested that…”

When you use the active voice your writing and you come across as strong, forceful and self confident.  If you need a grammar refresher, in the active voice the subject of the sentence does something.  Go back to the tweet.  In the first example, “I” is the subject of sentence.  To continue with the example, I does something, he or she suggests doing this…

Think of the title of Marvin Gaye song, “I heard it through the Grapevine.”  It is in the active voice.  I (the subject) heard (the verb) it (the object).

The passive voice is just the opposite.  In the passive voice, the target of the action is the subject.  In some cases, this makes no sense.  No one would be likely to write, “It through the grapevine I heard.”  The passive voice tends to use more words, and can confuse the reader.  And, you can come across as a weasel when you use the passive voice.

I’m old enough to remember the Iran-Contra affair.  When speaking about it, President Regan said, “Mistakes were made.”  The problem with this sentence is that it begs the question of who made the mistakes.  This sentence would be stronger if it read, “I made a mistake.”  Or, “This administration made a mistake.”  Of course, in this case the active voice may not have been the best to use politically.

As I’m writing this, I think I may be over complicating things.  The English Department at Purdue University does a good job of providing examples of the active and passive voice…

Active Voice: The dog bit the boy.
Passive Voice: The boy was bitten by the dog.

Active Voice: Scientists conducted experiments to test the hypothesis.
Passive Voice: The hypothesis was tested in experiments conducted by scientists.

Active Voice: Over one third of the applicants failed the entrance exam.
Passive Voice: The entrance exam was failed by over one third of the applicants.

Active Voice: The committee is considering the bill.
Passive Voice: The bill is being considered by the committee.

When you write in the active voice – especially when you use the first person – “I” – you come across as strong, forceful and self confident.  You writing is clear.  It communicates better.

In conclusion, it is suggested that the active voice should be used in your writing. 

Just kidding.  I’ll give a copy of my the eBook version of my book I Want YOU…To Succeed to everybody who rewrites the sentence immediately preceding this one in the active voice.  Please share your rewrites as a comment.

The common sense career success coach point here is simple.  If you want to write well and clearly, follow the career advice in Tweet 114 in Success Tweets.  “Use the active voice in your writing.  Say ‘I suggest we do this,’ rather than ‘It is suggested that…’”  The active voice is almost always more clear.  It makes your writing easier to understand.  And, when you write in the active voice you come across as self confident and in command of your subject.

That’s my take on the career advice in Success Tweet 114.  What’s yours?  Please leave a comment sharing your thoughts with us.  And don’t forget to rewrite this sentence – “In conclusion, it is suggested by this writer that the active voice be used in your writing.” – in the active voice to receive a free copy of my book, I Want YOU…To Succeed.


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