Identifying the Passive Voice

I’ve written before about When Passive Voice is Permissible. Strunk and White admit that “Use the active voice … does not, of course, mean that the writer should entirely discard the passive voice, which is frequently convenient and sometimes necessary.”   But one of the biggest problems writers face in critique groups is the problem …

Write With Clarity

When writing for a general audience, we want to ensure that the language we use is clear—the opposite of the kind of bafflegab we looked at earlier. ☐ Language is clear and vocabulary is appropriate to the audience. The key to keeping your language clear is ensuring that everything can be understood in context. This …

Write Brightly, but with Restraint

As writers, we want to create strong mental pictures and evoke powerful emotions. Even if your writing is prescriptive rather than narrative, you want to give readers a clear idea of your concepts. ☐ The writing is illuminating and vivid. The foundation of vivid writing is strong nouns and verbs. People doing things. The next …

Keep Your Writing Voice Informal

The best journalism, business, and academic writing is as eloquent and enjoyable as the best writing in other genres. Unfortunately, most people do not produce the best writing. Most people produce adequate writing. Since you aspire to be a writer, I trust that regardless of the field in which you write, you are striving to …

Use an Authentic Writing Voice

Write the way you speak, only with more polish. You may need to unlearn a lot that you learned in college about writing. Teachers teach academic writing, which tends to be dry, fact-focused, and concerned more with making a point than crafting elegant sentences. ☐ The narrative voice draws the reader into the text. ☐ …

Writers are readers

Last time I talked about the importance of reading widely. Now, my list of books read for last year looks pretty puny compared to some. But it’s a diverse list, so I’m OK with that. I once sat in a meeting with a potential client who was looking for a ghostwriter. He admitted to me, …

How to find your writing voice

Think about voice in terms of style—your voice is your unique style of writing. When we start out, we tend to write like we think writers ought to sound, instead of finding our own sound. This leads to stilted, stiff writing. Here are some tips for finding your distinctive style. Write the way you speak—sort …

Avoiding cliches and purple prose

The next item on the Elements of Fiction Editing Checklist packs in several problems we see in novice writers’ voices: ☐ The author avoids flowery or “purple” prose, as well as cliches, recycled phrases, and unnecessarily repeated words. Now, there are some words you need to repeat or you’ll sound nutty. I remember once a …

Finer points of voice

Part of the problem in talking about voice is that voice is interwoven with a writer’s personal style. Several points on the list need to be taken loosely, since what is effective can cover a broad range. ☐ Paragraph and sentence lengths are varied in accordance with pace. Monotonous sentence structures are a hallmark of …

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