Actively Stretch Your Brain

Okay, itís the dog days of summer and just the thought of doing anything more taxing than lifting a pencil makes perspiration pop out all over and trickle everywhere (lucky readers in cooler climes). I canít get terribly worked up for a lot of activity. So how about a little brain exercise?

Letís sharpen our active voice copy skills. Remember back when we discussed the value of Thinking Active Ė using the active voice in preference to the passive voice when you want your copy to be more persuasive? Iíd recommend you go back and read the article, but hereís the skinny:

Active and passive are verb voices. Active voice emphasizes the doer, the agent of the activity:

Sylvester ate Tweety.

The passive voice shifts the focus of a sentence away from the doer. The emphasis in the passive voice is always on what is happening, not who is doing it. Sometimes the passive sentence mentions the agent, sometimes not, but there is always an implicit or explicit ďby whomĒ:

Tweety was eaten. (by whom is implied)

Tweety was eaten by Sylvester. (by whom is Sylvester)

Passive constructions arenít always immediately obvious:

Built Ram Tough. (by whom?)

Designed to be the best umbrella youíll every buy. (by whom?)

You should be taken to the hospital. (by whom)

Passive voice has its uses, but in copy that is meant to persuade, motivate, sound accountable and credible Ö well, nothing beats the active construction.

So here are six sentences. Identify if the sentence is written in the active or passive voice. Then rewrite it in the opposite voice.

1. This credit card receipt should be sent to someone other than the person named on the card.

2. The technician should change the air purifierís filter after approximately 50 hours of use.

3. The first available specialist will contact you via email or by telephone within one business day to quickly provide a solution to your request.

4. Your billing address has been corrected by our Records Administration staff.

5. I apologize for the frustrations you recently experienced with WorldWide Online Member Services.

6. A hydraulic system that is both tough and intelligent, designed to respond to the slightest operator command.

 

Like a cold glass of lemonade before you start? (chortle)

Scroll down for the answers...

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ANSWERS

1. This credit card receipt should be sent to someone other than the person named on the card.

a. This sentence is in the passive voice

b. Writing it in active voice: Send this credit card receipt to someone other than the cardholder.

2. The technician should change the air purifierís filter after approximately 50 hours of use.

a. This sentence is in the active voice

b. Writing it in passive voice: The air purifierís filter should be changed by the technician after approximately 50 hours of use.

3. The first available specialist will contact you via email or by telephone within one business day to quickly provide a solution to your request.

a. This sentence is in the active voice

b. Writing it in passive voice: To quickly provide a solution to your request, you will be contacted via email or by telephone by the first available specialist within one business day.

4. Your billing address has been corrected by our Records Administration staff.

a. This sentence is in the passive voice

b. Writing it in passive voice: Our Records Administration staff have corrected your billing address.

5. I apologize for the frustrations you recently experienced with WorldWide Online Member Services.

a. This sentence is in the active voice

b. Writing it in passive voice: I apologize for the frustrations experienced by you recently with WorldWide Online Member Services.

6. A hydraulic system that is both tough and intelligent, designed to respond to the slightest operator command.

a. This sentence fragment is in the passive voice

b. Writing it in the active voice: We design a hydraulic system that is both tough and intelligent, and responds to the slightest operator command.

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