Use Active Voice

I read lots of reports, and – count on it – no matter how good the writer is, I know I’m going to read a @#$%! sentence like this near the end:

The evidence was logged into the Evidence Room.  PASSIVE VOICE

The suspect was transported to the County Jail.  PASSIVE VOICE

An ambulance was called to take the suspect to to MeadowBrook Hospital.

It seems that hardly any officer ever bothers to mention who logged in the evidence, who drove the patrol car with the suspect inside, or who called for the ambulance:

Officer Callahan logged the knife and bloodstained shirt into the Evidence Room.  ACTIVE VOICE

I drove Jones to the County Jail.  ACTIVE VOICE

Officer Schmidt called an ambulance to take Wilson to Meadow Brook Hospital.  ACTIVE VOICE

Passive voice is…dumb. Why on earth would a police report omit the identity of the person who performed an important action? But officers do it every day.

I’ve heard of embarrassing moments in court when the defense attorney wants to question the officer who drove the suspect to jail or performed some other action on the scene.

The officer who’s testifying just sits there in embarrassed silence. There were several officers at the scene. Eight months have gone by, and she can’t remember who did what. The police report she wrote eight months ago is no help: All it says is “The suspect was driven to County Jail.”

Why put yourself into that position? Use active voice.

I know a couple of administrators who reject any police report that has passive voice sentences. Good for them! If a report omits essential information, it has to be rewritten. It’s that simple.


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