Monday, October 29, 2007

Passive Voice Re-Write

Karon Thackston has an “expert” article called, “Stop the Slaughter of Innocent Copy” at The article itself offers good advice and an entertaining read.

One section, however, caught my eye as a perfect example of how to employ the passive voice to miss the goal of writing tight, focused copy. It reads as follows:

“One primary goal is to write copy so that the keyphrases are virtually
undetectable when read by someone with no knowledge of SEO. One vital step in
making this happen is to carefully research and select your keyphrases.”
The phrases “[o]ne primary goal is” and “[o]ne vital step … is” grabbed my attention. I immediately reconstructed the paragraph in my head to read:

“Write copy so that a reader with no SEO knowledge glides right over the
keyphrases without noticing them. To make this happen, carefully research and
select your keyphrases.”
As re-written, I’ve eliminated 10 words (and could cut more but may not keep the original flavor of the paragraph) and increased the reading ease from 45 to 50. The tone also matches the article better, addressing the reader directly rather than talking about SEO abstractly.

These sentences may not have caught my eye had they not been placed next to the key points box for the article, the first of which read:

“One common mistake many site owners and newbie copywriters make is to replace
every single instance of a generic key term with one of their chosen
You can re-write that sentence five different ways to get rid of the passive voice. Leave me one in the comments. I’ll post one of my own in a few days.




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