Active Voice or Passive Voice? What’s the Difference?

What is meant by Active or Passive voice?

Active voice is clear and direct. It stamps out what is happening in a dynamic way. It tells you who or what is doing the action (subject) and who or what they are doing it to (object).

Passive voice can be clear as to what is happening to the subject but usually sounds weaker as a statement. It loses the strength you want to give to your words (and strength in your words is important when you are writing for others).

Let’s take a few examples to show you what I mean.

Active Voice

John (subject doing the action) shouted at David (object receiving the action).

Stephen made the bread.

These are direct statements and have gravitas. Putting the same actions into the passive voice loses some of the impact and makes the sentence weaker.

Passive voice

David (subject receiving the action) was shouted (verb) at by John (object doing the action).

The bread was made by Stephen.

The active voice in the examples above are far stronger in conveying what is happening than the passive voice. Active voice has more immediacy.

You can check on whether a statement is in the passive voice if it has a form of be preceding the verb: is, was, were, had, will, are all variants of be. If one of these variants isn’t present then you have the active voice.

Comparisons

The sausages were cooked by Ben and Ella vs Ben and Ella cooked the sausages.

The cake had all been eaten by Joe vs Joe ate all the cake.

The entire wall was knocked down by the bulldozer vs The bulldozer knocked down the entire wall.

Which version of the above sounds better to you?

Conclusion

When you’re writing a story you need to be dynamic. That means using the active voice as much as you can. There is a place for passive voice but I’d advise you to restrict it as much as you can. And even when you think you are justified in using it see whether you can rewrite the statement in the active voice and whether it makes a difference to how you want to say it.

The Meanings of Words – Synecdoche

SynecdocheSynecdoche. What a wonderful word!

Someone mentioned the film, ‘Synecdoche, New York’ to me the other day. I’d never heard of it. I’d never heard the word synecdoche either so (as it was such a tantalising word) I decided to look it up – of course.

That’s what we writers and readers do because we want to extend our repertoire of words and understanding.

The best definition I found was on Wikipedia.

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Punctuation: The Comma and Its Uses

commaFrom the Oxford comma to an omission comma, the little curly punctuation mark is a small, simple thing that can cause so much confusion amongst writers. We probably all think we have an idea when it should be used and yet still puzzle over it at times.

Ask anyone when they use a comma and many people will tell you it is used as a natural pause in a sentence, particularly when a breath would be taken when reading out loud. If you use it, to indicate a pause, your lung capacity, might be, shorter than, mine.

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Who’s eating Grandma? The importance of correct punctuation

Commas give meaning to sentences

Commas are important to inject the correct meaning into a sentence, particularly long sentences.

They also have an important role to play in short sentences, and if you don’t get it right there could be awful consequences.

Let’s do a quick exercise to show how dangerous it can be if you get it wrong.  Continue reading

Writing Inspiration: Some Favourite Websites

DSCF0783We writers are surrounded by inspiration in all areas of our lives.

Everyday scenarios and moments provide us with a spark that could turn into a story; a few notes that lay buried in a notebook until rediscovered and worked into a current piece of writing, or expanded upon and turned into a story in their own right.

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Homophone to Homonym : Dessert, Desert, Desert

Desert DessertThe English language is a minefield where spelling and pronunciation are concerned. It’s no wonder it’s one of the most difficult languages to learn.

We have words that are spelt the same or pronounced the same but have different meanings (homonym) and words that are spelt differently but pronounced the same and have different meanings (homophone).

Just to recap here:

Homonym = Two or more words spelt the same or pronounced the same but having different meanings.

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Nuts and Allergies

people talking about nutsDo you have nuts?

I saw this sign outside a restaurant recently:

Please advise us if you have nuts and other allergies”.

At first glance they’re talking about two distinctly separate subjects: nuts and allergies. As if they’re expecting you to take the nuts with you to the restaurant and tell them you’ve got them.

Are you allergic to anything?

I suppose it is obvious that this sign should have read: Continue reading

Show, Don’t Tell – Writing On The Right Side Of The Brain


negative_space.1There is a book entitled, ‘The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain’, which teaches you to see in a different way.

Where drawing is concerned we often draw what we think we see (left brain) rather than what we can actually see (right brain).

For example, one of the exercises asks you to draw the spaces around and between the object you want to draw (negative space) rather than trying to draw the thing itself.

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