The passive voice: What is it and how to avoid it in Yoast SEO

Do you understand what the passive voice is and why it should be avoided in most situations? In Yoast SEO’s readability study, we recommend utilising the passive voice in no more than 10% of your sentences. Here We’ll answer a few queries concerning the passive voice and the assessment in our plugin in this article.

We’ll start by explaining what it is. We’ll next go through why it’s preferable to avoid using passive voice in your text. After that, we’ll discuss what the Yoast SEO passive voice check does, and how you can avoid using it in your copy. Finally, we’ll go through example scenarios in which it makes perfect sense to use it.

Is there an orange or red bullet in Yoast SEO for the passive voice check? Here’s how to use this check and turn that bullet green.

We have found a great tool to convert passive voice to active voice

What is the passive voice?

Word Mom hugged me
Semantic function actor direct web receiver

The actor and receiver are reversed in the passive voice. The recipient then takes on the role of grammatical subject. The meaning of the statement remains unchanged; the only alteration is in the sequence of the words.

Word I Was hugged By mom
Semantic function receiver direct verb actor

You can omit the actor in some passive statements. For example, ‘I was embraced’ is a completely reasonable passive statement, but one that conveys less information.

Why should you avoid the passive voice?

Let’s get right to the point: utilising the passive voice makes your writing sound remote and your message less obvious. This is due to two key factors.

  1. It is wordy

To begin with, passive phrases are lengthy. The passive sentence is just lengthier than the active sentence. Consider the following two sentences:

  1. Using the passive voice nearly always obscures your point.
  2. Using the passive voice nearly always makes your statement less obvious.

You use the passive to express the same meaning, but you add three words. This might really build up if you use the passive form a lot in your content.

  1. The sentence structure is complex

Second, the passive voice employs a phrase construction that necessitates greater mental effort. Making meaning of the statement will take up crucial working memory for your reader. This reduces your chances of getting your message through.

Let us investigate why the passive form needs greater work. As I previously stated, the fundamental active sentence form in English is extremely consistent and sensible. The passive voice completely reverses the situation. You start by reading what was impacted. After then, you read about what happened to it. Finally, you’ll discover how it was affected. Only at the very end do you find out who or what was to blame. This sequence is different from how we normally interpret occurrences.

Furthermore, we are little bewildered since we anticipate the actor to be in the subject position. As a result, generating a picture of what occurs takes a fraction of a second longer. Again, if you abuse the passive voice, these instances may quickly pile up.

There is no benefit to adopting the passive in the example I gave because the active phrase communicates the same information. Consider whether a better, active option is possible whenever you employ passive voice.

What does the Yoast SEO passive voice check do?

In Yoast SEO for WordPress and Yoast SEO for Shopify, the readability analysis includes a passive voice evaluation, which determines if the number of sentences using passive voice exceeds the suggested maximum. If you use passive voice in fewer than 10% of your sentences, you’ll earn a green bullet. If you go above 15%, it will turn red. Your writing will sound more remote and your message will be less apparent if you use passive voice. As a result, consider writing in the active voice; it will make your work much more powerful!

How to use less passive voice in your copy

There is an active complement to almost every passive statement. You should use the passive form if you can’t locate an active equivalent. In the next paragraph, we’ll look at several instances.

But let’s start with converting passive voice sentences into active ones. For each tense in English where the passive makes sense, we’ll offer an example.

Two things happen when you transform a passive statement into an active sentence:

  1. The verb is altered.
  2. The actor and receiver roles are reversed.

The verb change is the most challenging. As a result, we’ll call attention to it. Of course, the samples below are really basic, but they contain all of the necessary information. After the subject, verb, and object, most sentences include a few extra words. Those words will not change when you rewrite the sentence.

Tense Passive Voice Active alternative
Present simple A book is bought by me. I buy a book.
Present simple continuous A book is being bought by me. I am buying a book.
Present perfect A book has been bought by me. I have bought a book.
Past simple A book was bought by me. I bought a book.
Past simple continuous A book was being bought by me. I was buying a book.
Past perfect A book had been bought by me. I had bought a book.
Future A book will be written by me. I will write a book.
Future perfect A book will have been written by me. I  will have written a book.

What are the exceptions?

The passive voice is sometimes the only reasonable way to phrase a sentence. This happens most often when the actor is unknown or inconsequential. Consider the following example, which I presented in the opening paragraph of this text:

The actor and receiver are reversed in the passive voice.

There is no identifying performer in this scene, and he or she would not be important. After all, we’re discussing a broad activity rather than a specific one. Any other active statement would be less clear and succinct than the passive sentence I made, thus it’s the only viable option.

You might also use a passive statement to draw attention to the receiver. When the item is more important than the player in the storey, this works:

J.F. Kennedy was killed in 1963 in Dallas, Texas by Lee Harvey Oswald.

That is to say, we aren’t here to encourage you to avoid using the passive voice at all costs. If it’s better than the active option, go for it! Style guidelines are seldom etched in stone, so don’t make the mistake of adhering to them too rigorously. Do what seems good to you and flows well in your content. In most cases, a maximum of 10% is sufficient. If you follow our recommendations, you should be able to get even lower figures.

In our SEO copywriting course, which can help you produce amazing content, we also explore the usage of passive voice.


Active sentences are usually simpler to comprehend than passive phrases. Examine your content for passive voice formulations once you’ve finished writing it. Then ask yourself whether there is a better, more active option. If there is, take use of it. Employ the passive voice if you don’t want to use the active voice.

Author Bio – Hello, My name is Lewis A. Hartman. I’m helping many brands to achieve their goals in the digital era. Now, I’m very excited to build my network with young entrepreneurs.

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