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






6 outdated phrases and their forgotten meanings




Language changes, but technology changes faster. We still keep using outdated phrases long after we’ve left the old technology behind. Sometimes we update their meaning. Sometimes not. Some of these phrases are centuries old. Others, older generations remember the technologies well—fondly, even. But younger people have never used them. Or perhaps never even seen them. But the language lingers. … Continue reading






Notice to online writers: proofread!




When I was first starting out in this writing business, I read a lot about how to make money from writing. One person in particular kept stressing over and over that writing online is a business, and must be taken seriously as a business. Great advice, but all of her articles were riddled with typos and simple grammatical errors. I tried to make allowances; English is not her first language. But then it wasn’t Vladimir Nabokov’s first language, either. Lolita may be a disgusting story, but he tells it with gorgeous prose. Perhaps you’re saying that his publisher provided a … Continue reading