Write … to the Point

– writing tips and tricks

Archive for the month “November, 2016”

Active voice, passive voice — what’s the difference?

Active and passive voice - what's the difference?

Remember back in school when you learnt about the different ‘voices’ in your writing?

No? Active voice and passive voice?

Still nothing?

Well that’s okay. This blog post will explain all you need to know about active and passive voice, and when you should use each voice.

 

The difference between active and passive voice

In its simplest terms, active voice occurs when the subject of the sentence (or performer) is performing the action. For example:

Tom loves Jess. Tom (the subject) is performing the act of loving.

Passive voice is when the subject receives the action. For example:

Jessica is loved by Tom. Jessica (the subject) is receiving Tom’s love.

 

 Using the active voice

It is generally recommended to use active voice when writing. Active voice is clearer and more succinct. It clearly identifies the action and who or what is performing the action. It is stronger, and enables us to communicate our message more effectively. It also can be used to point the reader in a particular direction

Active voice has a kind of energy that passive voice lacks. It is the perfect choice in business writing — particularly when using a ‘call to action’ (e.g. ‘Call us now!’). And it is usually the choice for creative writing.

 

Using passive voice

While passive voice is often wordier than active voice, it is useful to use it in certain situations. For example, health writing often use the passive voice, because the ‘performer’ is less important than the action.

e.g. Carbohydrates are found in fruits and vegetables.

While using active voice in scientific writing is sometimes preferable, passive voice is useful because it is considered inappropriate for scientists to insert themselves into the paper.

e.g. The subjects were tested instead of We tested the subjects.

Passive voice is also used when the performer is unknown, irrelevant or obvious.

e.g. Every year, thousands of people are diagnosed with cancer.

It is also useful when hedging around a topic. You will notice that police officers, managers and politicians often use passive voice when they don’t want to, or are unable to identify the person who has performed the action.

e.g. Mistakes were made and the procedures were misinterpreted.

 

How to recognise passive voice

As we have seen, using passive voice is not wrong. However, active voice is preferable in most cases. To determine if your writing is passive, look out for the following tell-tale words:

  • be
  • is
  • are
  • a
  • was
  • were
  • has been
  • have been
  • will be

If any of these words appear, then you have written a passive sentence.

 

Changing from passive to active

Active sentences follow a logical order:

i.e. doer of action (performer) + action + receiver of action

To change a passive sentence into an active one, simply:

  1. begin the sentence with the doer of the action
  2. make the verb active
  3. put the receiver of the action after the active verb

e.g.                                        

The novel The Power of One was written by Bryce Courtenay (passive)

 CHANGES TO:

 Bryce Courtenay wrote The Power of One.

  

Final tips

Remember, passive voice has its place in writing too and in some instances if preferable. The type of voice you use in your writing will depend upon what you’re writing, who the audience is, and what the aim of your communication is.

But if you want your message to be snappy and clearly understood, always choose an active voice.

If you need help deciphering active and passive sentences, or just don’t want the bother of doing it at all, please contact me.

Cheers
Nerissa

 

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How to get down to the business of writing…when you really can’t be bothered

Lacking motivation to write

Let’s face it, every now and then, despite the deadlines looming we really struggle to find the motivation to write.

It’s not exactly writer’s block — it’s just that motivation has disappeared as quickly as our morning coffee, and we just can’t be bothered.

So, what do you do to get out of the funk and back into business?

Write a List

Sometimes I can’t quite get into my writing  because I have other things buzzing about my head — things to do, things to remember, phone calls to make, etc. Writing them down is a bit like a brain dump; you get them out of your head, but you put them in a place where you know you can attend to them later.

Get rid of distractions

Do you have your email open in the background? What about Twitter? Facebook? Other social media platforms? While it’s tempting to run them in the background, they will only make it worse for you, if you’re not in the writing zone. Shut them down. And while you’re at it, turn off your phone.

Grab a cuppa

Chances are, before you struck out on your own as a freelance writer, you worked a 9 to 5 job, right? What was one of the first things you did before you sat down to work? Grabbed a cuppa. Tea, coffee, hot chocolate, it really doesn’t matter. But the very act of starting your writing session the same way you used to start your regular work day, will help your brain to switch on to ‘work mode’.

Write anything

Just start writing. Anything. It doesn’t matter what it is. You could write about how you don’t want to be writing. You could write about what you plan to do on the weekend. The content isn’t important, but the act of beginning the writing process is. Most of what you’ll come up with will be unrelated to the task at hand, or totally rubbish. But the process of just writing, will do something in your brain, and soon enough, your writing will become focused.

Apply some ‘bum glue’

Renowned author, Bryce Courtenay used to talk about a substance called ‘bum glue’ when it came to writing his books. While it sounds like a magical substance, there’s nothing magical about it, and it’s not something you can buy at the local store. ‘Bum glue’ is simply the discipline involved in sitting in your seat and getting your writing done. And it’s not just reserved for novelists. It can be applied to any kind of writing. So why not give it a try. I often find that bum glue is only necessary for around 10 minutes of solid writing. After that, my head is in the zone, and my fingers are happily tapping away.

Take a break

If after trying some of the strategies above you still can’t bring yourself to write, take a break. It may be for an hour, half a day, a whole day, or a couple of days — only you will know how much time you need. Time away from the keyboard and your computer screen, doing something totally unrelated, will free up your mind. You’ll probably find that when you come back, you are eager to get started, and you’ll have one of your most productive sessions.

So, the next time you can’t be bothered to write (and you know you really need to), try some of the above strategies. And if you have any of your own that work, let me know. I would love to hear them.

In the meantime, if you have writing that needs to be done, and you just can’t bring yourself to do it, why not contact me and see if I can help.

Cheers
Nerissa

 

 

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