2 simple ways to cut passive voice from your B2B writing

Passive voice: Your jargon-bloated white paper was read by no one.

👊 Active voice: No one read your jargon-bloated white paper.


💤 Passive voice: The strawberry milkshake was thrown by the CEO.

👊 Active voice: The CEO threw the strawberry milkshake.


💤 Passive voice: Apologies were made.

👊 Active voice: The CEO apologised.


💤 Passive voice: Budget was allocated to the marketing director that will be used to hire a copywriter.

👊 Active voice: The marketing director got given budget to hire a copywriter.


Can you see how using the active voice makes your writing sharper, punchier and more persuasive?

Whereas passive voice sounds rambling, wishy-washy, bloated and overly corporate.


Which isn’t ideal when you want people to pay attention to you.

So here are two quick tips you can use to cut it from your own articles, white papers, reports and sales materials.


TIP 1: Look for the word ‘by’

There are lots of ways people use a passive voice -- and this ain’t no grammar lesson -- but often (especially in B2B) it sounds something like this:

💤 Passive voice: More content will be produced by B2B marketers next year, which means your inbox will be inundated by even more cr*p.

👊 Active voice: B2B marketers will produce more content next year, which means even more cr*p in your inbox.

A quick scan for the word ‘by’ illuminates those pesky phrases.

Then, all you need to do is swap the words after ‘by’ to the beginning of the sentence.

Like this:

💤 Passive voice: I am being sent to sleep by your annual report.

👊 Active voice: Your annual report sends me to sleep.

Much better, don't you think?


TIP 2: Ask yourself… Do I really believe in what I’m saying?

If you do, own it.

Don’t take the slimy politician’s side-step of:

“It is expected that prices will rise next year.”

And the feeble classic…

“Mistakes were made”

Both of which sound like you’re hiding skeletons in your floordrobe. 💀💀💀

And instead, say:

“We expect prices to rise next year.”


“We made a mistake”.

See? When you take responsibility, all trace of passive voice disappears.

own it.gif

And that makes you sound more trustworthy, more authoritative, more real, and you're customers are more likely to listen to you.

In summary


💤 Passive voice: The recommended guidelines for writing with energy, authority and wallop should be followed.

👊 Active voice: Follow these guidelines to write with energy, authority and wallop.

Give it a try!

You'll sound more like an expert—and your writing will cut through the B2B landscape like a roadrunner holding scissors.


P.S. Grammar Nazis! ✋This post is an overview, a simple set of hacks to demystify something people struggle with. It is not intended to build a rocket. Nor is it a comprehensive guide to the passive voice. I thank you.


Tam HendersonComment