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...By Monkeys illustration: on the left, representing passive communication, a group of monkeys climb all over a typical office work station causing havoc; seemingly without much productivity. On the right, representing active communication, a diligent worker sets to fixing a software bug. There's no sign of those pesky monkeys.

By monkeys

Compare if you please:

  • Sentences that have been written in a passive voice are generally less powerful than sentences that have been written in an active voice.
  • Active writing hits harder than passive writing.

It's easy for passive writing to slip in. Here's a handy technique to help spot passive writing in your sentences. Try adding " monkeys" to the end of the sentence. If it still makes sense then there's a good chance it's passive.

In the example in the sketch: "The bug will be fixed" you can tack on " monkeys" and all makes sense. It's passive. Passive writing is an easy way to distance ourselves, and our opinions from what we're writing. Active writing takes ownership, responsibility and connects with the reader. "We'll fix the bug. Sorry about that."

I love the " monkeys" example for spotting passive writing as it vividly shows how responsibility disappears.

This super example and technique is from Monzo's excellent tone of voice guidelines. Handy for writing copy on the web, for your brand, and for every day life.

You might like the excellent Hemingway app to spot other non-Hemingway slips in your writing. I ran this post through it and cut out a lot of fluff.

I also love the classic The Elements of Style by Strunk and White.

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