A Man Walks Into a Bar – Riff #1

A bar was walked into by the passive voice.

If you are one of the millions whose eyes glaze over when you hear anything remotely to do with grammar, suck it up.

The passive voice puts the thing being acted upon first, with the doer/act-or introduced by, well, “by.” It has its legitimate uses, like when we don’t know or really care exactly who did something, or when we’re focusing on the thing that was done, not the person who did it.

A man’s body was found
by a woman walking her dog.

It also has its weaselly uses, like when someone is trying to avoid taking responsibility.

Mistakes were made.

But lots of the time, it’s just Wrong.

These uses of the passive
can be read about by you, here.

You see? Awkward. Unnatural. Not nice.

By contrast, the active voice puts the person or organization acting at the start of the sentence, as its subject.

The supervisor made mistakes.
You can read about the passive voice, here.

In proposals, the active voice is overwhelmingly better than the passive. Why?

  • The active voice helps/makes writers think about who (what position) is going to deliver a service or execute a task, and evaluators often care. What are that person’s credentials and experience? What is their organizational seniority and authority?
  • The active voice is clearer because it’s simpler, more direct, less convoluted.
  • The active voice is shorter, and space is at a premium in proposals.
  • The active voice is punchier, keeping a reader’s interest and attention.
  • The active voice is easier and, therefore, faster to edit.

Make the active voice your default style in proposals. Evaluators may not thank you, exactly, but they will appreciate it. Even if they don’t know that they care about grammar.

 

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