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






31 tips to improve your writing skills




How long have you been a writer? Since about first grade. As soon as you started to learn to read, you started to learn to write. First you wrote letters, then words, then sentences, then paragraphs. Do I need to remind you of term papers? Many people look forward to graduating as much to turn in their last paper as for anything else. And many people, I suppose, look for jobs where they don’t have to write much. They have no faith in their writing skills. You may have to write a lot more than you anticipated when you started … Continue reading






Writers write about reading, writing, research




Not everyone who reads is doing research. Not everyone who does research in the broadest sense (looking up useful information) writes about it. But everyone who publishes research must read first. Indeed, anyone writes anything must read first. A friend of mine wrote an autobiography, and compiled as much documentation as he could find in order to refresh his memory and insure accuracy. Novelists must not only read other literature voraciously, but if they want respect for their novels, must conduct research to make sure that they describe places, customs, etc. accurately. Whatever else they write about, writers often write … Continue reading