Active vs. Passive Voice

I AM GOING TO WRITE THE BEST BLOG!

                                                            vs.

                                                            THE BEST BLOG WILL BE WRITTEN BY ME.

There you have it, an example of Active and Passive Voice. Can you tell the difference between these two sentences?

If you still don’t get it, here are the actual definitions:

What is active voice?

Sentences with an action verb, the subject performs the action denoted by the verb.

What is passive voice?

Well, you can change the normal word order of many active sentences (those with a direct object) so that the subject is no longer active, but is, instead, being acted upon by the verb – or passive.

Examples:

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But in what situations should we use passive voice instead of active voice?

Well, there are 6 of them:

  1. The actor is unknown:
    The old architecture in Rome was built during the Early Age. [We don’t know who made them.]
  2. The actor is irrelevant:
    The windmill will be built in the Australian desert. [We are not interested in who is building it.]
  3. You want to be vague about who is responsible:
    Mistakes were made. [Common in bureaucratic writing!]
  4. You are talking about a general truth:
    Laws are made to be broken. [By whomever, whenever.]
  5. You want to emphasize the person or thing acted on. For example, it may be your main topic:
    Insulin was first discovered in 1921 by researchers at the University of Toronto. It is still the only treatment available for diabetes.
  6. You are writing in a scientific genre that traditionally relies on passive voice. Passive voice is often preferred in lab reports and scientific research papers, most notably in the Materials and Methods section:
    The sodium hydroxide was dissolved in water. This solution was then titrated with hydrochloric acid.

Mhmm, what about using active voice over passive voice?

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Having too many passive voice sentences can sometimes make it harder to understand and comprehend your writing.

Active Voice: 

  • Can make your sentences clearer and easier for readers to understand.
  • Keep sentences from getting too complicated and wordy.
  • Are more clear and direct towards the topic.
  • Conveys more information.
    Example: People sometimes hate rock music. (Active voice)
    Rock music is sometimes hated. (Passive voice)

    • In this case, the use of active voice makes it clearer for readers to comprehend the information. From the active voice sentence, we can get a better picture out of it where passive voice sentence is kinda cloudy in term of its meaning.

Conclusion!

Both active and passive voice are grammatically correct. You can pick either one! But keep in mind, there are occasions where passive voice is better than active voice and vice versa. Pay attention to the intentions/purposes of the sentences and the overall picture. Although active voice sentences might be clearer to understand, passive voice has its own benefits that can sometimes fit better and is more appropriate than active voice.

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Works Cited:

Crocker, Joel. “Passive Voice: When to Use It and When to Avoid It.” Passive Voice: When to Use It and When to Avoid It. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2016.

http://www.writing.utoronto.ca/advice/style-and-editing/passive-voice

“Welcome to the Purdue OWL.” Purdue OWL: Active and Passive Voice. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2016.

https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/539/02/

@epbure. “Active vs. Passive Voice: The Complete Guide – The Write Practice.” The Write Practice RSS. N.p., 2016. Web. 10 Nov. 2016.

Active vs. Passive Voice: The Complete Guide

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Conciseness

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The goal of concise writing is to use the most effective words. A common problem in writing is when people drag on their story. Everyone’s experienced a time when someone won’t stop talking about a something, and it goes on and on, and on and on, and you don’t know why they keep including certain details because it’s really just confusing you instead of helping you understand whatever they’re talking about. Well, you can think of each sentence as a story, and with each one you want to deliver it as efficiently as possible because you don’t want to be that annoying person. This can be accomplished by using the strongest words to delete and replace weaker words. Every word has a purpose and should be deliberately chosen by the writer.

One method for making sentences more concise is to eliminate words that explain the obvious or provide excessive detail.

Wordy:

I was working earlier with my co worker whose name is Joe.

Concise:

I worked earlier with Joe.

Wordy:

Tim was not really sure if he actually wanted to go to the basketball game that was in the evening.

Concise:

Tim was unsure if he wanted to go to the basketball game tonight.

Wordy:

Imagine in your mind people playing a game of soccer on a field where soccer is usually played normally.

Concise:

Imagine people playing a soccer game on a soccer field.

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After reading those examples you may be thinking that you already know this stuff. Well, some elements of concise writing aren’t as obvious. Changing passive verbs into active verbs is one method that can easily be overlooked.

Wordy:

A letter was sent by Jacob.

Concise:

Jacob sent a letter.

Wordy:

My work was proofread by a friend.

Concise:

A friend proofread my paper.

Another tactic is to change phrases into single words or adjectives.

Wordy:

The worker with motivation

Concise:

The motivated worker

Wordy:

The player with the best performance

Concise:

The best performing player

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Changing that, who, and which clauses into phrases or a word can also reduce wordiness.

Wordy:

The paper, which I submitted recently

Concise:

The recently submitted paper

Wordy:

All athletes who are interested in making the team must

Concise:

All athletes must

Some words are commonly used to replace phrases:

Because can replace:

  • the reason for
  • considering the fact that
  • this is why

When can replace:

  • on the occasion of
  • in a situation in which
  • under circumstances in which

Can can replace:

  • is able to
  • has the opportunity to
  • has the capacity for

May, might, and could can replace:

  • it is possible that
  • there is a chance that
  • it could happen that

Overall, being concise isn’t too complicated. If you find yourself getting confused when reading your writing then there’s a good chance you’re not being concise.

Here are the keys to success in conciseness:

  • Eliminate unnecessary words
  • Change passive verbs into active verbs
  • Change phrases into single words or adjectives
  • Changing that, who, and which clauses into a word or phrase

Sources

Weber, Ryan, and Nick Hurm. “Conciseness.” Purdue OWL: Conciseness, 27 Feb. 2013,

owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/572/01/.

Subject-Verb Agreement

Subject-verb agreement is one of the most important concepts of the English language, and it is essential to make sure a sentence makes sense in terms of grammar. However, it is also one of the most common errors everyone make. (Whoops, I meant everyone makes!) Subject-verb agreement means the subject and the verb in a sentence must agree with each other in number and in person. In other words, the subject and the verb both must be singular or plural.

batmanIt is pretty simple to spot singular and plural subjects, which are also nouns. Most plural nouns end in an s.

  • vehicle (singular)
  • vehicles (plural)

But for verbs, adding an s doesn’t make them plural.

  • want
  • wants

Well, how can you tell which one is singular or plural?

  1. If the subject is singular and in third person, add an s to the base form of the verb. Examples: 
  • The doctor recommends exercising at least 30 minutes a day.
  • It looks like it is going to snow.
  1. If the subject is singular and in first/second person, use the base form of the verb. Examples: 
  • I make my own decisions.
  • You drive the van.
  1. If the subject is plural, use the base form of the verb. Examples: 
  • We play soccer in the backyard.
  • They eat dinner at a restaurant.

However, it is not always easy to see how many subjects are used in a sentence. Consider these two sentences:

  • The birthday boy, as well as his friends, is excited to go to the carnival.
  • The birthday boy and his friends are excited to go to the carnival.

In the first sentence, the phrase “as well as his friends” is not part of the subject, so a singular verb is used. In the second sentence, “the birthday boy and his friends” has two subjects, so a plural verb is used. Here’s another example:

  • The bouquet of roses smells pleasant.
  • The books on the bookshelf are gathering dust.

Similar to the examples shown previously, the verb agrees with the first subject, not with the noun that is in between the first subject and the verb.

Are there exceptions to the rule?

Of course! Different subjects can carry different meanings in certain cases, which can change the verb as singular or plural. Let’s take a look at several examples.

  • The doctor and scientist creates an effective cure for cancer.
  • Texting and driving has dangerous consequences.

In the first sentence, “the doctor and scientist” are the same person, so a singular verb is used. In the second sentence, “texting and driving” is a single activity, so a singular verb is used. These nouns are considered compound subjects. Some more examples:

  • Neither I nor my friends are going to the party.
  • Either my relatives or my family is meeting at the airport.

In this case, the verb agrees with the subject closest to it when using or or nor.

  • Everybody was shocked to discover the truth.
  • Even though many apply to Harvard, very few are accepted.

The noun “everybody” in the first sentence is a singular noun, so a singular verb is used. The nouns “many” and “few” in the second sentence are considered to be plural nouns however, so plural verbs are used.

Remember: 

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Sources:

  • Lunsford, Andrea A., Paul Kei. Matsuda, and Christine M. Tardy. Easywriter. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2014. Print.
  • “Subject Verb Agreement Definition, Examples.” Reading Worksheets Spelling Grammar Comprehension Lesson Plans. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Nov. 2016.
  • “Subject-Verb Agreement.” Grammar and Punctuation. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Nov. 2016.

 

Articles

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Articles might seem like a very basic piece of grammar, but leave one out and your sentence can be made unclear. Articles show whether a specific noun or a nonspecific noun is being referred to.

The two types of articles are direct and indirect. The is a direct article because it is referring to a specific thing; a and an are indirect because they are general. For example:

  • Tell your friend to “go to house” and they could show up to any house anywhere.
  • Tell them to “go to the house” and they will know exactly what you’re talking about.
  • If you told your friend “go to house,” they might be confused why they’re hanging out with you. This is why knowing articles is crucial.

However, articles aren’t that simple. Throw in a vowel and things get changed. A is used before a word starting with a consonant and an is used before a word starting with a vowel. For example:

  • I want to eat a banana.
  • I want to eat an apple.

If the noun has an adjective in front of it, then the article goes before the adjective.

  • That is large cat.
  • That is an enormous spider.
  • That is the yellow dog.

There are also times that articles don’t work and shouldn’t be used. For example:

  • Articles are not needed when referring to sports:
    • I play the field hockey.
    • I play a field hockey.
    • I play field hockey.  
  • Articles are also not needed when referring to a language or subject:
    • I study the Latin.
    • I study a Latin.
    • I study Latin.
  • The is not needed in front of countries, territories, cities, towns, specific bodies of water, or mountain ranges:
    • I went to the Asia.
    • I went to Asia.  
    • I live in the Waltham.
    • I live in Waltham.  

Tips:

  • When using an article determine if you are using it for a specific noun or for a general noun.
  • Make sure that if it is a general noun that starts with AEIOU that you use an instead of a.

Sources:

 

Prepositions!

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Wow, what a great view of Mt. Kilimanjaro. I sure would like to go to that mountain someday. I wonder what is beyond that mountain. That is a cool giraffe before Kilimanjaro.

Alright, enough about the mountain; can you guess why all those random words are bolded? It’s because they are prepositions!

One useful and easy way to think about how to use a preposition (a word in front of a noun that indicates location) is to picture a mountain and see if you can use a word to describe location relative to the mountain.

Examples: on, in, about, to, from, above, below, near….and the list goes on and on.

There is no set rule for using prepositions, but they can be useful for linking a part of a sentence to some noun. If you weren’t aware of what prepositions are or how they are used, then you have probably been unknowingly using them for years!

Just always remember if you are confused about prepositions or how to describe the location of something, think about the mountain! The mountain is your best friend!

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… No, not that mountain.

Prepositional Phrases generally look like: Preposition + (option modifier) + noun (or pronoun) Examples:

  • The man at work = preposition (at) + noun (work)
  • The crumbs below the counter = preposition (below) + optional modifier (the) + noun (counter)

Prepositional phrases in both of these examples were acting as adjectives. They answer the question “Which one(s)?” Which man? The one at work. Which crumbs? The ones under the counter.

Prepositional phrases acting as adverbs will describe such questions as: How? When? And Where? Examples:

  • Randy is still tired from the party last night.
  • Tituba begged the court for mercy before her trial.
  • How did Randy get tired? From the party.
  • When did Tituba beg the court for mercy? Before her trial.

A prepositional phrase will NEVER contain the subject of a sentence. Even if a noun in the prepositional phrase seems like the logical subject of a verb, it isn’t! Examples:

  • Both of the men flew to Chicago last Tuesday night.

Since the prepositional phrase, “of the men”, describes who flew to Chicago, it must be the subject of the sentence right? Wrong. “Both” is the subject to the verb “flew.” “Of the men” simply describes “both,”while “both” remains the subject.

  • George, along with his co-workers, was very happy to see the day end after a long, busy week.

The prepositional phrase “along with” tells that there is “more to come.” It may make you think that you have a plural subject, but it will remain in whatever tense the real subject (George) is. Restructuring the sentence may help to clarify as well:

  • Along with his co-workers, George was very happy to see the day end after a long, busy week.

While his co-workers are also happy, this sentence restructuring makes it clear that George is your subject as he is very happy. The co-workers in the sentence are added for further detail. See what I did there?

So, prepositions are really nothing to be scared about. Just remember the rules I’ve taught you: picture the mountain, ponder on the questions being answered, and remember the prepositional phrase will never contain the subject!

 

Sources:

  • Simmons, Robin L. “The Preposition.” Grammar Bytes! ::. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Nov. 2016.
  • https://www.facebook.com/BlogABookEtc. “GoT Finale.” Fay Simone. N.p., 03 Apr. 2016. Web. 07 Nov. 2016
  • “Tallest Mountain in Africa Mount Kilimanjaro.” What I Learned When RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Nov. 2016.