Most readers prefer the active voice. Just to be clear this isn’t a grammatical error but it does effect the readability for your readers. To explain the difference between active and passive verbs, we need to look briefly at how a sentence fits together. There are three main parts to almost every sentence:
- a subject (the person, group or thing doing the action);
- a verb (the action itself); and
- an object (the person, group or thing that the action is done to).
In a sentence written in the active voice, the subject of the sentence performs the action:
He buys a car.
In a sentence written in the passive voice, the action is performed upon the subject of the sentence.
A car was bought by him.
The active voice provides more certainty and clarity. And makes your document easier to follow. Always use the active voice if you can. However, the passive voice can be used:
- To make something less hostile – ‘this action has not been completed’ (passive) is softer than ‘you have not completed this action’ (active).
- To avoid taking the blame – ‘a mistake was made’ (passive) rather than ‘we made a mistake’ (active).
- If it simply sounds better.
This facility was built in 2019.
They built this facility in 2019.
The team members were informed the meeting had been cancelled.
The team leader informed their team members the meeting had been cancelled.