G for Grammar and the passive voice

Blogging from A to Z Challenge 2016
G: Grammar

You can find plenty of websites (and people) that will tell you when to use “its” or “it’s” and “their” or “they’re” or “there,” and Grammar Girl gives a wonderful explanation of misplaced modifiers here. So for my grammar lesson, I’m going to focus on the question I get asked the most: Can you give an example of passive voice?

passive voice

I just had a wonderful experience buying glasses at LensCrafters in Round Rock, Texas. The customer-service associate was friendly and worked to give me the best possible deal. The visit prompted me to see how the company describes itself online.

I found some passivity in “About Us;” see if you can spot it.

Our reverence for eyes drives us to provide the highest quality vision care in each of our stores across the country. We feature a selection of handmade frames from brands around the world and craft each pair of lenses in our labs.

LensCrafters continually invests in new technologies to improve care for your eyes, customize your prescription, and help select the right frames for you.

Associates at LensCrafters are trained to provide you with personalized eye health service throughout your experience.

Our love of eyes and higher standard of quality have made LensCrafters a leader in vision care for over 30 years.

Hint: Who trains LensCrafters’ associates?

Yes, in an otherwise active, personal description that uses “our” and “we” and “you” and “your” to make the audience feel connected, this one sentence – “Associates at LensCrafters are trained …” – stands out as corporate-speak. It’s exactly the type of passive sentence we see every day from company copywriters.

How do we know it’s passive? Ask yourself who performs the action described (in this case, training associates). The answer is what’s missing in the original sentence.

Easy fix: “We train our associates to provide you with personalized eye health service throughout your experience.”

Not a big deal, you say? I disagree. The copywriter was trying hard to communicate a specific tone and message by using personal pronouns paired with such words as “reverence” and “handmade,” “customize” and “right frames for you.” The writer wanted the reader to feel cared for.

A passive sentence here and there can jar your audience out of their engagement and imperceptibly to drag down the tone and lessen the impact of your message.

Please visit my fellow bloggers taking part in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge 2016.

 

 

 

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