Should passive voice be used or banned?




I submitted an article to a magazine, and the editing came back with this awkward passive voice construction: “Shopping bags are just one type of plastic film used regularly by Americans.” Ouch. Someone submitted an article to me that had one particularly awkward paragraph with too many sentences in passive voice. I have trimmed it to bare bones, but it contained all these passives: It is not forbidden to want to look beautiful, but living an ethical lifestyle is encouraged. Buying clothes is permitted, but you shouldn’t buy clothes you don’t need from a retailer known to oppress its workers. … Continue reading






To be or not to be? Use it as little as possible




Hamlet wondered whether to keep living or kill himself. Writers ought to wonder whether the sentence they’re writing needs some form of to be. It would probably be better with some other verb. Take a look at the first paragraph of an article someone submitted to one of my other blogs: Healthy, sustainable living might not be a new concept, but it is now shifting the face of the residential realm. Sustainable design is not just some fad, but a solution to some of the most sinister challenges that we face as a global society. The good news is that … Continue reading






Why write? Authentic reasons for anyone




You’re a writer. You might not write novels, poetry, magazine articles, or anything else you intend to publish.  But you write. You may enjoy writing. You may hate it. Either way, writing is important. But why? What are reasons for writing? Flannery O’Connor wrote, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” That’s reason enough for anyone, but everyone has other, more specific reasons. … Continue reading






Rime thyme




A wicked witch long ago cast a bad spell on the English language. Now there are hardly any common words that don’t rhyme with other words that have a very different spelling. Some people get confused. George Hearst, father of journalist William Randolph Hearst, ran for governor of California in 1882 despite having almost no education. In defense against the jeers of political rivals, he said, My opponents say that I haven’t the book learning that they possess. They say I can’t spell. They say I spell bird, b-u-r-d. If b-u-r-d doesn’t spell bird, what in the hell does it … Continue reading