Performance Perspectives Blog

Active vs. Passive Voice

by | Dec 29, 2009

When commenting on someone’s writing I often recommend using the active voice. A recent example may help.

A client sent us their GIPS(R) Policies & Procedures document to review. It included the following: “there are few industry-accepted standards for calculation and presentation of after-tax returns”; clearly a statement in the passive voice.  I suggested changing this to the active voice; for example, “there are few industry-accepted standards to calculate and present after-tax returns.” It’s shorter, more direct, and arguably reads better.

I, like most people, used to write almost exclusively in the passive voice, but eventually learned the difference and try to use active as often as possible. It’s fine to include some passive voice, but most of the writing should be in the active mode. When I review client documents, such as their firm’s policies to support their compliance with the Global Investment Performance Standards, this is one of the items I’ll comment on. Clearly, it’s up to the client to switch, but most recognize the benefits and seem to appreciate the suggestions.

In a piece for today, Susan Weiner commented at length on this topic, and provides additional resources to support one’s transition to the active voice. I suggest you check it out!

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