Are you aware of the risks of overusing the passive voice in your writing? In the readability analysis in our Yoast SEO plugin, we recommend using the passive voice in a maximum of 10% of your sentences. But why? In this post, I will discuss a couple of key questions about the passive voice. I’ll start by explaining what it is. Then, I’ll explain why it is usually best to avoid using the passive voice in your writing. To cap it off, I’ll describe some situations in which using the passive voice makes perfect sense.
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What is the passive voice?
The passive voice is a grammatical construction. The easiest way to explain the passive voice is by contrasting it with the active voice. The active voice is the standard English sentence structure. The simplest possible sentences feature an actor (the subject), who does (the verb) something to either a person, animal or thing (the receiver).
Word Mom hugged me Semantic function actor direct verb receiver
In the passive voice, the actor and receiver are switched around. The receiver becomes the grammatical subject. Note that the meaning of the sentence stays exactly the same. The only difference is the word order.
Word I was hugged by mom Semantic function receiver direct verb actor
In some passive sentences, you can omit the actor. ‘I was hugged’, for example, is a perfectly sensible passive sentence, although it provides less information.
Why should I avoid the passive voice?
Let’s cut to the chase: using the passive voice almost always makes your writing more…