Media writing has evolved into its own specialist form – at the heart of the style is active writing. What makes this style so special? Writing has come a long way. It’s argued that true writing of language itself – not just numbers – was invented independently in at least two places: Mesopotamia around 3200 BC, and Mesoamerica in around 900 BC. Fast forward thousands of years and writing is an integral part of most people’s daily lives; particularly in media, where ‘active voice’ is crucial. Writing in passive voice means constructing sentences where the subject is ‘passive’ – acted upon, rather than being the agents of the action. You’ll notice passive sentence structure makes sentences dull and, quite frankly, a bit boring.
Active tense, however, makes things punchy and gets straight to the point.
The ability to compile an informative, enticing and well written piece of news is crucial for media writing. Competition is fierce for organisational ‘real estate’ in news pages, and a company’s media writing or stories should always be clear, accurate and truthful. It also pays to be creative, fun and ‘punchy’. Having an active voice is crucial for writing with flair, and gains more attention than a dull, passive piece of writing. In short: Keep it upbeat, keep it short, and keep it active. So what’s active voice? In active voice, the subject is doing the action. Let’s take the song “I saw her standing there” by The Beatles as an example of a sentence in active voice. If you wanted to make the title of this song passive, you would say: “She was standing there, and I saw it.” Hmm… Not so catchy now, is it? Other examples
|Passive Voice (NO)
|Active Voice (YES)
|I keep butter in the fridge
|Butter is kept in the fridge
|The CEO kept his schedule meticulously
|The CEO’s schedule was kept meticulously
|A cake is being made by me
|I am making a cake
|A lot of coverage was achieved by the public relations company
|The public relations company achieved lots of coverage.
When is the Right Time To Use Passive Voice? Just to confuse everyone further, there are actually some occasions where it’s okay to use passive voice. We have listed a few of these below:
- Changing Focus – When we want to change the focus of a sentence, we can flip the rules a little. For example, “The Mona Lisa was painted by Leonardo Da Vinci” – in this case, we’re more interested in the painting than the artist, so it makes sense to place Mona Lisa first.
- Scientific Writing – “The chemical was placed in the test tube and data entered into a computer”.
- When The Action Is Unknown – “My computer had been stolen” – in this case, the agent is unknown.
Clear as mud? Don’t worry – that’s what we’re here for.