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How to Write in Active Voice

How to Write in Active Voice

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Readers prefer the active voice over the passive voice. What does that mean? You use the active voice when you start sentences with the verb: such as:

• “He went to the emergency room.”
• “He went to the operating room.”
• “The physician checked him out in the emergency department.”

Healthcare professionals typically write in the passive voice:

• “He was admitted with a diagnosis of. . .”
• “It was documented that he received a medication.”
• “He was administered Tylenol.”
• “He was taken to the operating room.”
• “He was taken to the emergency room.”

You can get information on your use of passive voice by activating your readability statistic. The readability statistics take over after spell check is finished. Ideally you should have a score of less than 10% of your sentences in passive voice.


This is an example of a passive voice:

She was felt to have significant pulmonary edema evidenced by frothing at the mouth, she was cyanotic (blue) and in acute respiratory distress.

My revision of this sentence is:

The critical care physician diagnosed Mrs. Grotto with significant pulmonary edema based on her frothing at the mouth, cyanotic color and respiratory distress.

It’s the same information but it gives an identity to the person who made the diagnosis.
This is another example of a passive voice sentence:

He was able to be stabilized enough to come off of the vasopressors.
I changed that to

The critical care team stabilized him to permit stopping of the vasopressors.

This is one more:

Mrs. Grotto had the Braden scale assessment done very often throughout her stay.

Now, that sentence makes me think she was directing the staff to do her Braden scale assessment. We know most patients are not aware of the Braden scale assessment. Here is the revision:

The nurses frequently performed the Braden scale assessment during Mrs. Grotto’s stay.
That puts the focus on who actually performed the action.

Pay attention to the active voice when you write. Check your readability statistics to improve your awareness of the active voice.

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