I’m a bit behind posting today. I’ve been planning the next two to three weeks of author interviews and book reviews. I’ve also been reading a lot. A couple weeks ago a new author asked if I would look at his manuscript for his debut novel. I agreed and began reading. After two or three chapters and numerous comments I asked him to go back through and fix his most common problem, passive sentences. There were also some issues with mixed tenses but the passive sentences made it difficult to concentrate on the story. I think he’ll have a good story once he can get past using passive sentences.
Passive sentences are more wordy than active ones. I find it makes a story difficult to read, and doesn’t give the reader opportunity to relate to the characters. New authors sometimes fall into the passive trap. I’m not sure if they want to increase word count or if it is a reflection of their insecurity to write bold active statements. The characters in a story are best when they are ‘bigger than life’ and bold active statements promote that image.
There are a number of resources available on-line to help writers understand the intricacies of grammar. Passive voice isn’t bad grammar, it’s bad communication; shy, unassuming, and let’s face it, passive communication. Be forthright in communicating ideas, stories, even your business transactions. I think the only time passive voice should be used is to depict the character and personality of a passive person. One that would talk that way because of insecurities and fear. Otherwise, be bold, be aggressive, be active. Let your subject do the action, don’t let the action be the subject.
I am writing; not, the writing is being done by me. Simple, bold, active, that is the best way to communicate. Precise, clear, efficient and effective communication using the active voice engages readers.
I’m stepping down from my soap-box now.
Links to a few grammar sites: