Active verbs

Apart from giving more life to a story, the active voice also saves space. “Police arrested Mr Smith” says clearly and crisply in four words what “Mr Smith was arrested by police” says ponderously in six.

“The committee plans to meet next week” (active) not “A meeting was scheduled to be held by the committee next week” (passive).

“The dog mauled the boy” (active) not “The boy was mauled by the dog” (passive).

Sometimes the passive approach is better, usually when a name is involved, because it catches the eye of the reader. “Australian actor Nicole Kidman was kicked by a kangaroo today” is better than “A kangaroo kicked Australian actor Nicole Kidman today”.

Watch out for lots of passivity in government and business statements. This should always be rewritten as more active text.

Officialdom would have said:

“The shoreline is the location at which the enemy will be targeted and engaged in combat in attempts to finalise their deployment in this country.”

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said it much better:

“We will fight them on the beaches.”


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