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Posts Tagged ‘Passive Sentences’

Using Passive Voice Is Not Wrong

February 21, 2012 2 comments

Ok, time to vent on a pet peeve of mine; people who claim that using the passive voice in writing is wrong. It is not wrong. In fact there is nothing grammatically wrong with writing in the passive voice. Yet I just had another encounter with another author, unpublished of course, who swears that the passive voice is grammatically incorrect.

What is the passive voice? Passive voice is when the object of an action becomes the subject of a sentence. For example, saying “Why was the paper written on by you?” is perfectly grammatically correct but is passive in its voice. The paper is being acted on and also where one expects the subject to be. One would expect the question to be asked, “Why did you write on the paper.”

The two sentences however have the same meaning. But the first is slightly more advanced, potentially leading to someone with a lower reading level being confused by it. That’s ok though. And here is why. Because repetitive, predictable sentence structure in prose is boring. I have read enough of it. And a lot of it exists in so called “Best Sellers” that numb my brain with robotic English.

I am here however to say that it is ok to throw in a couple passive sentences as long as they are not overly clumsy. Of course, writing too much in the passive voice can indeed be awkward. If half of your sentences are passive people are not going to like that. But if you judiciously make 3% or so (that’s just 3 out of every 100) sentences in the passive voice, it breaks up the inevitable monotony of your structure. By being smart about when you use the passive voice, a reader probably will not even recognize that you have pulled such a sentence out of your bag of tricks.

Most successful fiction authors seem to have their passive voice sentences down to a very low number. But they do not eliminate them. Remember all this next time someone tells you such a sentence is “wrong”.

Rules? What Rules?

February 14, 2012 Leave a comment

The more I delve into the realm of being a writer, the more I realize that there are a lot of opinions held by a lot of people about things that should and shouldn’t be done within the context of putting a story down on paper. Call them, if you must, “rules”.

I hear a lot of don’t do thats and must do these other things. Whether it is the common admonition of “show, don’t tell”, to warnings of the use of fragment or passive sentences and even cries over the apparent horrendous concept of blatant foreshadowing without any pretense of hiding the future of a story, I have heard them all. And you know what I say to all these “rules”? PFFFFTTT!

Every story which I have read violates some of these rules. Many of them violate these rules repeatedly and frequently. We are talking about best selling novels and classics of publishing history. And these books and stories all managed to get published along the way. How is that possible if these rules were in fact, “rules”?

I think some people have gotten too formulaic in their approach to writing. Writing is art. Art is rarely about coloring within neatly drawn lines. I have never read a story which consisted of perfect prose by any standard of writing.

Maybe instead of fooling ourselves into believing that there is indeed a magic formula to writing we should just write. We might be surprised what we create.

Reading Level For A Good Story

February 9, 2012 Leave a comment

A friend of mine, a published author, suggested that any story I write should have a Flesch-Kincaid Reading Level of between 3.5 and 5.5 or 6.0 at most. I thought that seemed low so I cut and pasted some segments of published novels I have around in digital format into Word and checked. All of those tests actually fell into that range.

So I took the new Chapter 1 I have just written for Under the Darkened Moon and ran it though the readability statistics analyzer in MSWord.

The results were:
Passive Sentences – 2%
Flesch Reading Ease – 86.9
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level – 3.8

So looks like I am in that range and if there is anything to this I have that, probably minor, hurdle hurdled.

Just to make sure though I ran my free writing exercise which I recently completed though the tool as well.

Passive Sentences – 5%
Flesch Reading Ease – 83.4
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level – 4.4

I also ran my short story Second Chances:

Passive Sentences – 5%
Flesch Reading Ease – 85.8
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level – 3.8

Yep. Looks like I am solidly in that range.