Watch Your Tense and Don’t Be Passive or Reactionary in Your Writing

passive voice

Source: Google Images/yoast.com

This week’s post topic came about after (once again) reading grammatically-challenged articles online. I automatically proofread everything these days – every article, book or online missive. I can’t help myself (thanks a lot, Catholic grammar school nuns). What I find all too often are: 1) multiple tenses in one sentence (make up your mind); 2) passive voice (MS Word or Ginger Software can help with this); and 3) a reactionary style of writing, where the protagonist is responding to something or someone instead of taking action.

your tense must make sense!

No matter what you’re writing (blog, book, article, etc.), it’s important to maintain the correct tense in each sentence and avoid the passive voice. FYI – each tense has its own passive voice, created by using a form of the auxiliary verb, to be (am, is, was, are, were, will be, etc.).

In a recent blog post from The Book Designer, I found this very mistake at the top of the article:

“One way to do this is by learning what passive voice is, how to find it, and eradicating it from your writing.”

I discovered the errors the first time I read it. Do you see them? Read it again, with a bit of change:

One way to do this is by learning to learn what passive voice is, how to find it, and how to eradicate eradicating it from your writing.

The author also began the sentence with “one way” and proceeded to list three ways (in reference to grabbing the reader’s attention). This is how I would write the sentence, with correct tense and active subject/verb:

“It’s important to learn what passive voice is so you can find it in your writing and eradicate it.”

Boom.

Don’t Be Passive, Be Active!

Passive voice in sentences is when the subjects (protagonist, antagonist, etc.) are acted upon by the verbs instead of the other way around. Active writing is when the subjects are proactive, not reactive. Active writing makes for stronger, more interesting characters and an entertaining read.

One example of passive vs. active writing:

Passive: My laptop was stolen.

Active: Someone stole my laptop.

Once you learn the difference between active and passive writing, you’ll find it easy to maintain active sentences (unless passive is necessary in a character’s dialogue). Ginger software, for example, can teach you how to avoid the passive voice and in the process you’ll become a better writer.

Better for you, better for your readers.

#writing #fiction #nonfiction #grammar #gingersoftware 

Grammar Rules! Or At Least It Used To…

which v that

Source: Writersdigest.com

Here are some great tips from Writers Digest blogger, Brian Klems. He certainly cleared up a few grammatical confusions for me. It’s been a lot of years since those Catholic grammar school English classes. Honestly, as much of a ‘grammar Nazi’ as I can be, there are times when even I can’t figure it out. Brian clears it all up succinctly and in an easily comprehensible way.

These tidbits are nice refreshers of some of the issues many people have when writing/speaking:

Lay vs. Lie (vs. Laid)

Thank god, cuz this one always has me topsy-turvy, never quite getting it right.

Here’s the difference between lay vs. lie, along with ‘lay lie’ examples and a simple chart that breaks it all down. (PLUS: laying vs. lying)

Source: Lay vs. Lie (vs. Laid) – Grammar Rules

Who vs. Whom

This one’s the easiest for me but I see their misuse all over the place.

Source: Who vs. Whom

Which vs. That

Oh, I know I get this one wrong a lot, as do many people.

Source: Which vs. That

If you like these, check out his other posts: Since vs. Because; Snuck vs. Sneaked (hint: one of them is a made-up word now a part of our American lexicon); and Leaped vs. Leapt (I never figure this one out).

For writers, grammar rules can make or break our work. We don’t have to have a Masters in Fine Arts or English. It makes sense to have a good grasp of the basic rules of grammar; then our stories will be better off and our readers will be, too. Oddly, I’m the first one to break most rules (I prefer to think they’re for other people) but, for some reason, grammar rules are the ones I choose to follow (probably because I want people to actually read and like my books and not think I’m a complete idiot). When grammar rules, stories shine. So do the writers.