Use a business tone, and make your writing persuasive, to encourage your classmates to visit the EWC!

Discussion Topic 1: Using Writing Resources

Review and Write:  Visit the UMUC’s Effective Writing Center (EWC) – you need to find the link yourself!  Explore the vast resources provided by the EWC to UMUC students and faculty.  Select between two and four features they offer, and write two substantive paragraphs about what you learned.  Include at least two links in your writing to sub-pages on the EWC site that relate to your paragraphs.  Use a business tone, and make your writing persuasive, to encourage your classmates to visit the EWC!


Discussion Topic 2: Active and Passive Voice

Review and Write:  Jose M. Blanco is a college English instructor who has developed a wealth of informative and helpful lessons and worksheets on English grammar.  His website is available at  To complement the lesson in WRTG 394, week 3 on Writing Business Messages, this short lesson on Active and Passive Voice will help you improve your business writing.  The term voice, when used in English grammar, refers to the structure of a sentence. There are two “voices” in English grammar –active voice and passive voice.

Active Voice: In an active voice sentence, the agent (the one who does the action in the sentence) is stated explicitly as the grammatical subject. The thing that the agent does something to (the direct object) comes after the verb. Here’s an example.

Active Voice Sentence: Julio cooked fried rice.

“Julio” is the agent. He’s the one who does the action. In this case, he’s the one who cooked the rice. In this active voice sentence, Julio is the grammatical subject. What did Julio cook? He cooked fried rice. The words fried rice make up the direct object. The fried rice is the thing that the agent (Julio) does something to. In this case he cooked it.

Passive Voice: In a passive voice sentence, the thing that the agent does something to is placed as the grammatical subject of the sentence. The agent (the one who does the action) is placed after the subject, usually in a prepositional phrase. In fact, sometimes the agent is hidden, not even mentioned.

Passive Voice Sentence: The fried rice was cooked by Julio. (The agent is mentioned.)

Passive Voice Sentence: The fried rice was cooked. (The agent is not mentioned.)

In business writing, you almost always want to use the Active Voice.   Studies in readability indicate that active voice sentences, where the agent is stated first, are easier to understand than passive voice sentences.

So when should you intentionally use the Passive Voice?

1. When the receiver of the action is more important than the agent.

Active Voice: The Nobel Foundation awarded President Obama the Nobel Peace Prize.

Passive Voice: President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The passive voice construction places the emphasis on the receiver of the Nobel Peace Prize, not on the organization that awarded the prize.

2. When you consciously try to minimize the role of the agent or the agent is not known.

Active Voice: Marie Jenkins could not complete the status report because James McDonald misplaced the manufacturing data.

Passive Voice: The status report was not completed because manufacturing data were misplaced.

3. When you write about scientific, technical or natural processes.

Active Voice: The conveyor belt delivers the shrink-wrapped product to the packing station.

Passive Voice: The shrink-wrapped product is delivered to the packing station.

Using active voice or passive voice is a stylistic choice about sentence structure. It’s important to understand the structure so that you control the structure instead of letting the structure control you. But remember; use the active voice in most of your work-related writing.

Exercises: Below are 25 sentences written in either active or passive voice.  Select 15 of the sentences and convert each sentence from passive to active or active to passive, if needed. Please select them randomly, so that the entire list gets covered –last 15, middle 15, odd numbered, even numbered, etc.

1. When the Phillies’s Shane Victorino overran him, third base was stolen by Johnny Damon.

2. A happy Thanksgiving is wished by me for everyone.

3. The attorney general indicted the notorious gangster, Al Capone, for federal income tax evasion.

4. The student services committee forwarded revised disciplinary procedures to the campus president.

5. Six Thousand shares of Disney stock were bought by Jenny Allen when she was only nineteen.

6. People can view the dazzling meteor shower from the observation tower at the planetarium.

7. The acceptance letter from Harvard was received by Jenny Arteaga last Tuesday.

8. An invitation to Francis Suarez’s victory party was received by Mr. Packer, the state party chairman.

9. The Baseball Writers Association of America named Joe Mauer, the Minnesota Twins’ catcher who led the American League with a .365 batting average, MVP for 2009.

10. The window was broken.

11. Whenever my family went camping, the emergency flashlight was left behind.

12. Marlon Byrd of the Chicago Cubs was knocked down by Alfredo Aceves with a hard, inside fastball.

13. Fifteen oak seedlings were planted by Mrs. Vigil’s second grade class.

14. Biological diversity is considered a crucial survival issue by Professor Edward O. Wilson of Harvard University.

15. The cashier was commended by the branch manager for her tactful handling of an irate customer.

16. The wet umbrella was removed from the table by the server.

17. The police officer was angered by Jason when Jason refused to present his identification card.

18. The 2010 – 2011 budget was not approved by the appropriations committee.

19. The playground area was left in a shambles after the birthday party.

20. Dirk Nowitzki was guarded by Lebron James during the third quarter of Wednesday night’s championship game.

21. Five hundred pounds of illegal drugs were confiscated by the Coast Guard in January of 2011.

22. Thirty-seven migrants were found by Homeland Security inside a small van trying to cross the border in the middle of the desert.

23. The Toyota Prius is manufactured in Japan by Japanese workers.

24. A bill to force state employees to contribute to the retirement plan was signed by Governor Rick Scott yesterday.

25. Victor was given the science award by the selection committee for his outstanding project on salt-water intrusion in the Biscayne aquifer.

Blanco, J. (2011).  Retrieved from Freely reproducible for non-profit educational purposes.


Discussion Topic 3:  Elements of the Writing Process

Review and Write:  Based on the readings this week in the textbook, the supplemental chapter, and the module, write two substantive paragraphs incorporating at least three of the following five topics:

  • Establishing your credibility and projecting your company’s image
  • Defining key elements of a paragraph and writing to develop coherent paragraphs
  • Being sensitive to your audience in writing
  • Improving the clarity and readability of your writing
  • Proofreading your writing for grammar, omitted words, spelling and punctuation




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