What is active voice writing and why is it important to you in your B&B business? According to Strunk and White in Elements of Style, active voice is more direct and vigorous than passive voice. To you, active voice means writing in the present tense.
Here are some examples taken from various B&B brochures that illustrate my point; first you’ll see a passive-voice phrase and then an improved active-voice phrase.
- “You could pet a calf” versus “Pet a calf”.
- “You might want to read a book.” versus “Plop in a chair and read a book.”
- “You could lie in bed and look out the window to the snow-capped peaks.” versus “Lie in bed and peek over your toes at the snow-capped peaks.”
- “Maybe you can take a walk or go fishing.” versus “Take a walk. Fish.”
- “We offer snow shoes and ice skates for those wanting to enjoy the winter wonderland.” versus “Skate on our pond. Snow shoe to the top of the hill for a spectacular view.”
- “The surrounding area offers antiquing, historic battlefields, and wine tasting.” versus “Go antiquing. Visit historic battlefields. Sample the local wine.”
- “Some guests enjoy sitting by the fire and warm their toes.” versus “Warm your toes by the fire.”
Using active voice makes for forcible writing. It’s important for you to write vigorously so that your message is conveyed more succinctly, helping your reader (potential guest) put themselves in your offered guest experience. By doing that they can determine if your inn is the place for them to stay. You can convey your inn’s style through this type of writing without telling people what you think your style is — you show them a picture and let them supply the caption. Active writing involves using verbs and nouns, avoiding adjectives and adverbs.
Avoid telling people you are a “romantic inn”, have a “casual style”, or that you serve “gourmet breakfasts”. Write with nouns and verbs — active nouns and verbs preferably, avoiding excessive adjectives and adverbs. If you apply adjectives and adverbs to your descriptions you may set a guest up for disappointment because their definition of romantic, casual or gourmet could be very different from yours. It could be even worse than setting them up for disappointment, they could think you lied to them and that makes people angry.
I still remember a B&B I was visiting that promised “gourmet” breakfasts; I knew I was in trouble when they offered me a single-brew decaf coffee — not my idea of gourmet (the breakfast wasn’t bad, but my disappointment at the dreadful coffee overshadowed the food experience).
If you share aspects of your inn that you think convey “romantic”, “casual” or “gourmet” and the guest applies that adjective to your description, then you have successfully expressed the inn’s style. When the guest applies the adjectives and adverbs, then chances are they won’t be disappointed and will broadcast what a great B&B you have and what a great time they had while staying there. That’s what you want to have happen — the creation of goodwill ambassadors and PR people for your B&B.
The advantage in writing in active voice, and avoiding adjectives and adverbs, is that your writing is tighter; you are using fewer words to convey the guest experience. That allows you to have more “white space” in both your brochure and web site, an important aspect of your design to keep your reader’s attention.