Be active.

I’m a big fan of efficiency in all forms of writing. That means never using five words when four will do. We can’t all be Hemingway, obviously, but emulating his terse, minimalist style can make all our business writing better.

One of the best ways to do that is to use the active voice. According to English Grammar and Composition, a verb is in the active voice when it expresses an action performed by its subject. It’s in the passive voice when it expresses an action performed on its subject. Here’s an example:

Active: New CEO Theo Dekker led the company to six consecutive quarters of growth.

Passive: Six consecutive quarters of growth for the company were led by new CEO Theo Dekker.

That’s 13 words for active and 15 for passive. And the active sentence is the more direct and forceful one, too. That’s not to say the passive voice is wrong or bad. Actually, there are plenty of circumstances in which it’s the better way to express your thought. But if you’re like me and like strong, efficient sentences, try to make the active voice your default and use the passive voice a little more . . . passively.

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