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Lesson 12. Make It Simple > Use the Active Voice - Pg. 50

Make It Simple 50 Use the Active Voice Most business communication seems to occur in the passive voice. The subject is being acted on by the verb. Examples: The man was hit by the girder. The new project was started by the team in the second quarter. Many speakers not only use the passive voice, they also like to depersonalize their information as much as possible. Example: A decision was made to reduce our marketing budget. Perhaps the speaker doesn't want us to know who made the decision. That way, in case something goes wrong, no one will be blamed for it. There is nothing inherently wrong with using the passive voice. If, however, you're trying to persuade your audience to take action, the passive won't do it; it's much too weak. Instead, you need to speak in the active voice. When you use the active voice the subject is doing the acting. Here are two examples comparing the passive and active voice. Active: --The manufacturing team should put on a third shift to handle the increased workload. Passive: --A third shift should be put on by the manufacturing team to handle the increased workload. Active: --The company should spend more money to market its new products in Europe. Passive: --More money should be spent by the company to market its new products in Europe. In each case, the active is stronger and more forceful than the passive. It also uses fewer words. If you expect to do any convincing, especially if your listeners are skeptical, use the active voice. It will give your words far more impact. Watch Out for Jargon Many presentations are filled with a form of language called jargon. It's English, all right, but the words don't really mean very much because they've been so overused. You've heard some of these words: synergy, bottom line, paradigm shift, proactive, touch base, think outside the box, win-win, lev- erage, reengineering the company Plain English Jargon is the obscure and often pretentious language of a special activity or group. There's no need to resort to meaningless business jargon when you speak. Use standard Eng- lish.The English language is filled with a great variety of powerful words. One organization became so tired of listening to these words that several employees designed a jargon bingo game. Each time a speaker at a meeting used jargon, participants marked it off on their bingo sheet. The first one to fill in five squares vertically, horizontally, or diagonally won. It was something they did to pass the time while they tried to concentrate on a boring presentation.