3 Ways to Double Up When Converting Passive Constructions to Active Ones

By Mark Nichol

Revising sentences so that they’re more active isn’t mandatory, but strive to make most of your passively constructed sentences more dynamic—and while you’re at it, don’t overlook opportunities to give a sentence more than one burst of energy.

1. Now that you have the business activities and conflicting activities defined, the associated privileges can be assigned to those activities.

This sentence is easily rendered more active by repurposing the adjective defined as a verb and fortifying the bland verb have with it: “Now that you have defined the business activities and conflicting activities, the associated privileges can be assigned to those activities.” Even better, make the sentence imperative and therefore more forceful by beginning the main clause with the verb rather than the noun phrase: “Now that you have defined the business activities and conflicting activities, assign the associated privileges to those activities.”

2. There will still need to be thought given to understanding how conflicts of interest are identified and managed.

Avoid beginning a sentence with a vague expletive; start with a noun: “Thought will still need to be given to understanding how conflicts of interest are identified and managed.” Better yet, enable the more active basic form of the verb give by employing the key noun at the outset: “Management will still need to give thought to understanding how conflicts of interest are identified and managed,” and explicitly stating that management itself identifies and manages conflicts of interests, rather than implying some vague actor, will strengthen the sentence even more: “Management will still need to give thought to understanding how it identifies and manages conflicts of interest.”

3. These have been in place for about ten years, with compliance actively monitored through annual assessments undertaken by a qualified assessor.

Using with is a weak way to start a sentence or a clause. Easily strengthen a statement by converting a dependent clause into an independent clause; simply change with to and and insert a form of the verb “to be”: “These have been in place for about ten years, and compliance is actively monitored through annual assessments undertaken by a qualified assessor.” Better yet, in addition to employing the first half of this easy fix, fortify the second clause by making the actor, rather than the action, the subject: “These have been in place for about ten years, and a qualified assessor actively monitors compliance through annual assessments.”

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1 Response to “3 Ways to Double Up When Converting Passive Constructions to Active Ones”

  • Oliver Lawrence

    Good stuff, although “to give thought to understanding” is a classic weak-verb construction, along the lines of “to carry out research” or “to effect change”.
    Better “Management will still need to reflect on and understand how it identifies and manages conflicts of interest.” or just “Management will still need to decide how to identify and manage conflicts of interest.”

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