passive voice explanation

So far, you’ve learned how to install Yoast and get your site verified, the importance of SEO and keywords, and how you can make little changes to improve your post’s readability. Today, we’ll dive into the really geeky English teacher sort of stuff. I’ll give you a simple passive voice explanation. Don’t run away or stick your fingers in your ears quite yet! 

What EXACTLY is Passive Construction?

In a nutshell, Yoast SEO sees passive construction as any sentence that uses a form of the verb ‘to be.’ Other people have written precise definitionsof exactly what constitutes passive construction. Think of passive voice this way—would you rather watch a movie titled: The Girl Was Kissed by the Boy OR Boy Kisses Girl. Perhaps action movies attract you more than romances. Which would you pay $12.50 to see? The Car Was Crashed by James Bond OR James Bond Crashes a Car (Again). You get the picture. That pesky word ‘was’ slows down the action and makes the reader wonder why they should watch. Using passive construction slows down the mind movie your readers produce when they read your words. 

The Dirty Dozen 

Ok, the verb ‘to be’ has more than a dozen conjugations. Let me show you:

In the past tense, the verb ‘to be’ looks like this:

Other forms of the verb ‘to be’ include: has been, have been, had been, will be, will have been, being, and of course ‘to be.” So, I guess that makes 12 forms! Passive construction often pops up when we use one of those forms along with another verb. The other verb shoes up in the present participle or past participle form (kicking/kicked).

Here's a simple passive voice explanation and a few good reasons why you want to eliminate passive construction from your writing. Your readers will thank you. #betterwriting #passivevoice #improveyourwriting

Sometimes when writers use passive construction, they subconsciously avoid assigning blame. “The reports were turned in late.” This leaves the reader not knowing WHO turned the reports in late. What sounds ok when talking to the boss doesn’t sound so great when your reader reads it.

In order to tighten up your writing, avoid using passive construction. Pretend you take an English class from me and I have asked you to find all of the forms of the verb ‘to be’ in your post. Now, eliminate all but TWO of those by changing your sentence structure.

Most sentences have strong verbs (those that show up in a participle form) that you can use to replace the form of the verb ‘to be.’ Look at this sentence: ‘The girl was kicked by the cow.’ You could change the order of the sentence and rewrite it as ‘The cow kicked the girl.’ That gives the reader a sense of urgency about the cow’s evil intent to kick anything within reach.

I make it a game for myself when I write blog posts to avoid using any form of the verb ‘to be.’ With practice, you can tighten up your writing. Your readers will appreciate it.

How Yoast Grades Passive Voice

I think Yoast assesses blog posts for forms of the verb ‘to be.’ Remember, using a form of the verb ‘to be’ doesn’t always mean the writer has used passive voice. Sometimes we can’t avoid using forms of ‘to be.’ But if I have a yellow or red light on the Yoast readability scale, I can change it by eliminating forms of the verb ‘to be.’

I challenge you! Send me a paragraph with passive construction from one of your blog posts (the before paragraph), and then rewrite the same passage using zero forms of the verb ‘to be.’ I’d love to see what you’ve done: anita at anitaojeda dot com.