Long ago, writing authorities decided that passive voice was “weaker” than active voice, and therefore, discouraged. However, no one has ever proclaimed passive voice to be grammatically incorrect. This leads to some head-butting with editors from time to time.
Editors, of course, follow the various rules of their own publications, as well as the established rules of the English language and grammar usage. Their job is to ensure that the various writing styles and voices of writers are accommodated* while still preserving the integrity and readability of the publication. In pursuit of this mission, editors almost always demand that passive voice be eliminated.
*’are accomidated’ is passive. Note, that it is not WRONG, jut passive. To make it active, you need to switch the sentence around and use the main active verb ‘accommodate.’
There are certain topics that make it hard to eliminate passive voice. More specifically, there are certain sentences that make eliminating passive voice difficult. When talking about something that someone may choose, or not choose to do, or allow in the future, passive voice is hard to get away from without making the sentence awkward. I notice this most when writing about taxes.
Tax rules and regulations often offer taxpayers a choice. A sentence must, therefore, make it clear that there is a choice. Using the word may, or can, is a good way to show that there is a choice. Next, most tax advice or tips involves what the taxpayer will do in the future. Add it up and you end with passive phrasing.
“A taxpayer is allowed to take a deduction.”
That sentence is passive, is allowed.
Fixing it requires a different subject, or verb.
“Tax code allows the taxpayer a deduction.”
“A taxpayer may take a deduction.”
While I understand the concept of avoiding passive voice, it is still my contention that the first sentence conveys the information most accurately in terms of tenor, sound, or feel, even if the others are grammatically the same information.
If you were wondering, yes, I am writing something and the passive is bugging me 🙂
I’ve always been a big believer in the power of music to help with regulating mood, motivating, and just plain feeling better. A lot of people from many different professions listen to music while they work.
However, as a writer, music can be a tricky thing. While having a fun beat and clever lyrics appeals to a writer as much as anyone, there is a very big snag. The human brain cannot always keep everything separate, and the words flowing in from the song sometimes get jumbled up with the words being generated to write your article. The result is stray words typed without you knowing it and lost trains of thought.
As a web developer, I’ve always been more able to use music. It’s because even though programming requires focus and typing, the words and consciousness streams in the mind are not the same. In fact, only a small amount of the average code actually uses English words, and even when it does, those words don’t hold on to their same meanings, having been conscripted for coding. However, the problem with a lyric or two interrupting a complex train of thought is the same.
So, I stuck with just two options, either listen to classical music (no words), or work in silence. Finally, while reading my Twitter (follow me!) I noticed another programmer mention a list they he was listening to while coding. I tried it, and the silence has disappeared from my world.
As it turns out, a lot of programmers use various forms of electrical or techno music with upbeat, throbbing beats, but NO WORDS! Just like the classical music I have been using, these kinds of music provide a background of melody and beats without disrupting your fragile thought processes. However, I don’t know anything about these kinds of music, so finding solid tunes that are entertaining, and, let’s be honest, not irritating, can be a time consuming process filled with trial and error.
Fortunately, music apps like Spotify come with the ability to listen to other’s playlists. Several coders have playlists published on Spotify, which allows you to both listen in, and listen to a radio station based upon the playlist. Both are solid ways to crank out some prose without having to find and manage music when you should be writing. Whenever, you don’t like what you are getting in through your ears, just hit next. Spotify limits this, but it shouldn’t happen too often when you are in the zone. However, a better option might be Songza.
I’ve just discovered Songza, so I’m not aware of all it can do, or its limitations, but it has one feature that I love for both writing and life in general. Songza offers up playlists based upon what you are doing (activities) or based upon your mood. The former actually lists, “Coding” as one of the default activities, while the later is a great way to get some music for everything from cooking a little BBQ, to cleaning the house, to chillin’ with a bucket of beers and ice on the balcony. Even better, Songza doesn’t seem to keep complaining when I want to skip more than a few songs.
When it comes to working a full day as a freelance writer, its the little things that enhance your comfort and make it easier to keep going long after the work stopped being its own party.
A few years ago (back in 2009, it looks like) I wrote an article about why you should still get your MCSE and had to use the delete key over and over again to avoid flat-out saying that Microsoft was stupid to kill off the MCSE certification in favor of the much more confusing and completely unknown certifications it was replacing it with.
You can read more of my rantings — when they occur, I’m trying to tone down — at BestHubris.com
Looks like I was right. Having gotten no traction outside of a tiny subset of companies and IT recruiters with the new certifications, Microsoft is bringing back the MCSE. They should have listened to me the first time.
If you are reading this, you are here too early 🙂
I have an extraordinary list of bookmarks, tools, online services, web apps, bookmarklets, writing websites, research sites, plug-ins, utilities, applications, and (whew!) much more that make the life of the professional writer much easier. Unfortunately, a lot of it is on pieces of paper, or text files, or notes, or – more recently – in Microsoft Office OneNote 2010. Of course, many more are buried in the bookmarks of the four different browsers I use on a daily basis. Plus the top writing help sites and writing tools on the Internet which have special homes on my Speed Dial Groups (Firefox) and also on my Morning Coffee for Chrome and Morning Coffee for Firefox setups. I fired up this post to explain what was going to happen here: I am going to write some posts or pages with lists of tools professional writers use for productivity or research, as well as to get a start on that list by having a place to “dump” the ones that come to me on a onesie-twosie basis.
Some of the electronic writing gadgets, online writing tools, and software applications for writing I use have become so second nature to me that I forget that they are stand-alone apps and services that writers can use to improve writing quality and profitability. I wanted a place to be able to jot them down without them getting lost in my online writing bookmarks at Delicious or the like.
Best Writing Plugins For Firefox – Best Writing Extensions for Chrome
If you are unfamiliar with the latter two browser extensions, then consider this your reward for reading this far even though I told you at the beginning that you were too early to get the actual list of killer writing resources and best writer tools and software.
Speed Dial is a plugin for Mozilla Firefox that allows you to create a speed dial similar to the one in Opera and Google Chrome. The difference is that unlike Chrome, Speed Dial lets you manually set which websites get to be on the speed dial and in what order they are displayed. Furthermore, the Speed Dial plug-in for Firefox lets you create more than one speed dial. These are called Dial Groups and they appear as tabs across the top of the speed dials. This lets you configure workflow based speed dials, or dials for other purposes. For example, you could make a dial group for games with your top 9 gaming websites and another dial group for finding freelance writing gigs with your top 9 freelancing websites. Even better, you can change the default layout from a 3 x 3 layout to a 4 x 4 or even 6 x 8 or whatever you like. This is a huge bonus for those of use with big widescreen monitors that can clearly display a dozen or more top writing websites.
Morning Coffee extension for Chrome or the Morning Coffee plugin for Firefox offer a similar functionality as Speed Dial, but are designed instead to be configured not as a screen where you can select the one website you need to find and open, but rather as a way to open all of the websites you need for a particular function at once.
For example, if you search for writing jobs on the job boards on Tuesday mornings, you could setup a “Tuesday” Morning Coffee session that opens five or ten or twenty writing gig websites all at once. Then, if on Wednesdays you read a bunch of technology websites to stay on top of technology news in your capacity as a freelance technology writer, you can set a Wednesday Morning Coffee session to open a dozen tech review websites.
Well, that was fast. Sort of.
It seems that today, just three short days after deciding to get myself ranking higher for my own name, my brianenelson.com website comes back as the #1 Google search result if you search for brian e nelson in quotes. Things haven’t changed much in searches for brian nelson or, ironically, in searches for brian e nelson without the quotes.
I do my searches inside of an Incognito privacy mode on Google Chrome in order to remove the “personalization” factor in Google’s search result rankings. I can’t help but wonder if that isn’t enough. I think I’ll try again with a blank profile later this week when I set up my freelance writing office in a Starbucks. Interestingly, enough, the same search brings back this website and my last post about Brian E Nelson the writer and how I would be using things, like this WordPress.com blog to get myself up higher in searches for my own name. That shows just how meaningless this particular feat is. Without trying to link here (other than the existing links to the homepage) that post ended up #8.
Of course, that means that no one else is trying to rank for this particular “keyword”. That makes sense considering that there is no real value in it, which is why I never tried before either. As vanity projects go, I’ve seen much worse. Besides, there is always the possibility that someday I will take to someone about what I do for a living. (I’m a freelance writer.) I will tell them my name, of course, because that is how you introduce yourself to someone. And, I will also tell them the name of my writing business, because after name, where you live, and how you know the host, the next small talk items on the standard conversation checklist is, “What do you do?”
Some time will pass and there will be a need in that person’s sphere of influence for a professional freelancing writer and he’ll remember my name. Or, more likely, he’ll ask the host. I’ve got kind of an easy to describe physical build, so this happens a lot to me. (“He was the tall guy with…”) He’ll also remember that I had a funny and/or clever business name. Something about snow and an animal, but it won’t be close enough to get him to me in a search. (My business is called Arctic Llama.) So, he’ll get my name from the host or the name of someone who knows me well enough to know my last name, and he’ll type in Brian Nelson.
He’ll know it is a wild goose chase, but he’ll try it out just in case. And, there, on the first page of Google search for brian nelson will be Brian E Nelson professional writer in one form or another. He’ll think, “That must be him,” and a few clicks later he’ll be at one of my websites with a link to my writing business, or maybe he’ll go straight to my freelance financial writer page or to my freelance writing samples.
Either way, he’ll have a name and number, I’ll have a new writing gig, and this whole excercise will turn out to be a worthy one after all.
I’ll keep you posted.