Why make a text longer than necessary? Maybe you don’t have much experience with writing yet, or you think you come across as smart or interesting if you write woolly. Perhaps you have never consciously thought about avoiding passive and redundant language, or you don’t have a counter reader to point this out to you.
Whatever group you fall under, the message of this article is: check your texts for passive and woolly language. What is unnecessary can be omitted where possible. Check, check, check. That is why I will discuss what passive language is, and how you can detect and redirect it. In addition, I share examples of woolly language, so that you can (continue to) write nice smooth texts.
Let’s start with the basics. What is the difference Administration Directors Email Lists between an active and passive sentence? It’s actually quite simple: in an active sentence, the subject performs an action. For example:
- Elsemieke is putting the finishing touches to an article.
In this sentence, ‘Elsemieke’ is the subject, and she is ‘putting the finishing touches on a new article’. An active sentence. If we make this sentence passive, it becomes (for example):
- Elsemieke ‘s article is being finalized .
In this sense it is not the person, Elsemieke, that is central, but the status of an action. So it’s a passive sentence. We also call this the ‘passive form’, because the direct object of the active sentence is the subject in the passive sentence. Just before the high school repetition: a direct object is the phrase to which the action of the verb directly relates.
In this example it works
In the active sentence ‘an article’ is the direct object, because the verb ‘lay’ refers to this. In the passive sense, ‘an article’ is the subject.
We often aim for short sentences, especially for online texts. As Marlous ten Berge writes in her article about how people read online : ‘writing is deleting’. We are already busy enough that we often scan texts online instead of reading. That’s why it’s important to stay short and to the point. Accessible and concise language helps with that.
Of course , a text does not always have to be short and concise . This also depends on the purpose of your text and the subject. But avoiding unnecessary (too) long sentences and words is of course always a plus. As in the example with Elsemieke, you will probably notice that the active sentence is shorter: