How To Do A Works Cited Page For Chicago Style Active Or Passive Writing For Policies and Procedures

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Active Or Passive Writing For Policies and Procedures

Grammar describes how language works; grammar can help us understand sentences even if we don’t know the meaning of all the words in a sentence. Although there are many good grammar books, this article will focus on the importance of passive and active voice in policies and procedures.

Passive voice is an obstacle to clearly wording policies and procedures. Passive writing is easier to show than to explain. Take this sentence: “The paper was written by the student.” With active voice writing, the sentence is written as “The student wrote the paper.” Do you see the difference? Which one do you like more? I hope you like this last sentence. A sentence is called passive because its subject does not perform or initiate the active action indicated by the verb. Instead, the subject receives the action.

Obviously, active writing is preferred over passive writing in policies and procedures. But this is where the buck stops. Active writing is more difficult than fluent passive writing style. We can all write passively. But actively writing makes you think. While active writing is great for instruction manuals (or desk procedures or work instructions), it’s not always the best way to write for business policies and procedures. I’ll leave that option up to you, but I’d recommend testing the waters to see if active writing would be better for your readers than passive writing.

O red flag because the passive voice is some variation of an auxiliary verb (was, will be, had been, is being) plus a past participle (built, written, directed) more by if the actor is mentioned. So tell mewhich of the following two sentences do you prefer?

  1. The new account executive was hired by the sales manager.
  2. The sales manager hired the new account executive.

If you answered number 2, you got it right. This second sentence is in the active voice and is cleaner and easier to read. Now here is the hard part; it is very difficult to write in active voice all the time as is so obvious in my own books. Readers will love you if you can keep your writing in an active voice. Now, on the other hand, I doubt your readers will see the difference if you only show them passive writing. Sad but true.

And finally, the passive voice makes sense sometimes. To say that the passive voice is never appropriate is to misunderstand it. Here is an example where the passive voice makes sense. If the person doing a certain action is unknown, the following sentences are fine:

  1. The accident occurred because the machinery had not been repaired.
  2. Batteries not included… sounds like a good name for a movie title.

My advice is to do your best to write in the active voice writing style, but don’t sweat it if you have to use the passive voice every now and then. And please don’t apologize for writing in the passive voice. And if you get any misses, ask them to join your team and help you write better.

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