Start strong, stay strong
Begin your sentences with strong subjects and verbs. Tell the reader who is acting and what the actor is doing. Leading with strong subjects and verbs puts the most important words at the beginning of the sentence and condenses your text.
Avoid there is, there are, and it is
There is, there are, and it is push the subject away from the beginning of the sentence and add length. Rewriting the sentence to eliminate these weak openings often means you can use a stronger verb.
There is a Help link at the top of the page. Click it.
Click the Help link at the top of the page.
There is no charge for the service.
The service is free.
Replace weak verbs
Weak verbs dilute the strength of your message. Prune indirect verbs like allow, enable, can, and let, which also make a sentence longer. Substitute active, direct verbs.
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Save your shopping cart by clicking the Save button.
To save your shopping cart, click the Save button.
Replacing a weak verb often means rewriting the sentence.
This feature lets you change your settings during a call.
Use this feature to change your settings during a call.
Change your settings during a call with this feature.
Front-load your sentences with the most important information, which is usually the actor (the subject) and what the actor is doing (the verb). The active voice achieves this best.
- Active-voice verbs indicate that the sentence’s subject is performing an action: Anil rolls the ball. The kitten pounced on the paper clip.
- Passive-voice verbs indicate that someone or something is being acted upon: The ball is rolled by Anil. The paper clip was pounced on by the kitten.
The passive voice tends to make sentences longer, harder to grasp, and weaker, because the most important information—the actor and the action—is not leading the sentence.
Movie times can be checked on his mobile phone.
He can check movie times on his mobile phone.
The passive voice can confuse readers and cause them to lose interest in your message. The active voice clearly identifies the agent performing the action.
The main loggia can be accessed either by ascending the grand staircase or by using the elevator opposite the ticketing area.
Visitors can access the main loggia either by ascending the grand staircase or by using the elevator opposite the ticketing area. (The subject is “visitors.”)
Access the main loggia by ascending the grand staircase or by using the elevator opposite the ticketing area. (The subject, “you,” is understood.)
However, the passive voice is acceptable and may even be preferable in some circumstances. It’s OK to use the passive voice when the actor is implied, relatively unimportant, or unknown, or when you prefer to be indefinite.
Our products are manufactured in the United States and Brazil.
New Orleans was hit by a hurricane.
The mayor was mugged by an unknown assailant.
The superhero was unmasked at last.