With continuous dramatic advances in sophisticated technology, the business world needs straightforward, easy-to-understand audit writing. My teams perform detective testing and draw heavily on audit practices. My teams’ test results must be translated into succinct written issues and reports that clearly and precisely articulate problems. We must also keep the information consumable, so the “So what?” factor jumps off the page. To accomplish this, I prefer “Active Voice” over “Passive Voice” to write with granularity and succinct wording. This allows process and technology owners to act with precision to correct problems my team identifies. To demonstrate this, we can use the following sentence as an example of the difference between Active and Passive Voice:
An exception report is run daily to identify transactions needing correcting.
The example above is written in Passive Voice.
In this style, the author emphasizes the object is receiving the action, not the subject performing the action. The sentence does not tell the reader, who runs the report.
An exception report is run manually by a data analyst daily to identify transactions needing correcting.
In this example, the sentence is more precise. It communicates who performs the task; however, it is still in the style of passive voice. The object (the report) remains the focus of the sentence. Passive voice frequently uses more words than active voice. Authors may identify the use of passive voice by searching for the word “by.” In this case, including a proposition to describe who performs the action results in a 15-word sentence. Transforming the sentence into the Active voice allows the author to shorten the sentence.
A data analyst manually runs a daily exception report identifying transactions needing correcting.
This example is written in Active Voice. The sentence structure now places emphasis on the subject (the data analyst) performing an action on an object (running a report). The sentence clearly communicates who is responsible for the action.
Using Active Voice creates more compact sentences. The author only uses 13 words with the active voice example, rather than the 16 words in the second passive voice example. We are frequently limited to one-page presentations, which becomes a finite amount of “real estate” for words. Using Active Voice allows us to write compact, succinct sentences within the confines of one page.
Placing this concept in the context of my role in the business world, I need to write clearly to make it easy for the readers of my reports and issues. Management deserves clearly written problems and reports that are to the point and describe problems with high precision, so management can quickly fix problems identified through auditing and another testing.
Passive voice sentences can be helpful when it is necessary to soften the language or to diffuse accountability in a sensitive situation intentionally.