After years of slander and ridicule, passive voice has been found to be useful by Jakob Nielsen’s eye-tracker research. Mr. Nielsen’s article, titled Passive Voice Redeemed for Web Headings, makes an excellent case for the use of passive voice as a sneaky way of “front-loading” keywords in headings for blog posts, articles, or other web content. It cites recent eye-tracker research as proof that Internet users tend to focus only on the first few words of a headline.
Although this goes directly against what most of us have been taught for years (passive voice is punishable by
forced attendance to a networking event flogging at Shoap Technical Services), Nielsen makes an excellent point. While using passive voice is generally not a good idea, there are circumstances where it actually makes sense, particularly if it makes your writing more effective.
Of course, it’s not hard to see how grabbing the reader’s attention makes for an effective headline. Since readers are more likely to click on something interesting, and more hits = good, passive voice is probably a risk worth taking when it comes to writing headlines.