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






Write Good Online Content and Reuse It (Without Making It Dizzy)




You can get my latest ebook, Write Good Online Content and Reuse It (Without Making It Dizzy), free for the next five days (May 29 through June 2, 2013). If you’re reading this post after that time is over, it costs only $2.99. My regular readers know that I am a stickler for proper word usage, good grammar and correct spelling. While all good writing requires clarity, reading online is enough different from print that writers must achieve clarity a little differently. Writers of print content seek a publisher, who handles all of the marketing and distribution of its books, … Continue reading






Spelling, punctuation, and other fun topics




People who like to read and write like words and like playing with words, sentences, punctuation, and anything else that comes along with reading and writing. Now that so many of us are BFF forever with our electronic gadgets, we have new tools for communicating—or failing to communicate, as the case may be. Word processing software now comes with spelling and grammar checkers. I expect most writers find them helpful, but they don’t make a very good crutch. For one thing, some of the grammar checkers contain hard-coded grammatical errors. And even if the suggested correction isn’t simply wrong, it … Continue reading






Spelling, grammar, and why they still matter




When I was learning to read and write, I caught on pretty fast, but I can still remember the struggles of some of my classmates. Developing the fine motor skills necessary to form letters neatly is one problem. English spelling is another. We had long lists of words to memorize and be tested on. Drills on spelling, vocabulary, and basic computation skills seem to be disappearing from school curriculums. Perhaps the educational theorists who hobble our teachers’ ability to do their jobs effectively have forgotten how important basic skills are. Or perhaps they are so intent on raising test scores … Continue reading






Going on a “which” hunt: choosing between “that” and “which”




[ad name=”Google Adsense 728×90″] Probably no one considers relative pronouns exciting. Maybe most people hardly consider them at all, but writers are not most people. Good writers must know the rules of good usage. Writers might on occasion have good reason to ignore the rules, but know them they must. So when should a writer use “that,” and when “which?” Although writers have been arguing for more than a century whether it matters, the most careful writers recognize that the rule is fairly simple. Use “that” to introduce a relative clause that defines or clarifies the meaning of the antecedent … Continue reading