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Listen to the Voices in Your Head

When we send a post into the blogosphere, we want to make sure our best feet are forward. That means…

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When we send a post into the blogosphere, we want to make sure our best feet are forward. That means making sure errors like typos or poor grammar don’t detract from what we have to say; it’s one of the reasons The Daily Post highlights grammar issues many of us struggle with. (With which many of us struggle?)

Grammar challenges will follow up on grammar posts, calling on you to put your new-found understanding to the test. It’s one thing to read about the rules, but another to put them into practice.

To participate, tag your posts with “DPchallenge” or leave a link to your post in the comments. (It would also be great if you could link to this post to encourage people to take part – the more the merrier!) Please be sure your post has been specifically written in response to this challenge; obvious attempts to link-bait will be deleted. We’ll keep an eye on the tag and highlight the week’s best posts on Freshly Pressed each Friday.
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Let me be perfectly candid and say that Daryl’s the Grammar Maestro in these parts. My approach to proper grammar is not unlike the Supreme Court’s approach to pornography: I know it when I see it. I’ve never diagrammed a sentence and have been known to leave participles dangling all willy-nilly, so I look forward to his posts as much as you do.

Hopefully, his wonderfully clear description of recognizing the passive voice in your writing has already been read by you,* because it’s time for the pop quiz. For this week’s Writing Challenge, we want you to pay attention to how you’re using the active and passive voices and make a conscious effort to use them in a way that produces clear, direct, and compelling posts. Here’s what you’re gonna do:

  1. Switch your post view to “Text” mode – you don’t want those green squiggly lines giving away phrases that have grammatical issues.
  2. Pick a story about something you did – a pick-up basketball game you played, a meal you cooked, a project you did around the house, whatever. The only limitation is that it needs to involve an object (e.g., the basketball, the saute pan, the cordless drill).
  3. Tell the story, making the object the focus. This doesn’t mean you have to describe slicing onions from the onion’s point of view – although I would totally read that post – but you should highlight the actions and characteristics of the object.
  4. Pay attention to the ways using the active and passive voices help or hinder your story.  You could start every sentence with “I threw the ball…,” but then you wouldn’t be focusing on the object. On the other hand, you could start every sentence with “The basketball was thrown…,” but that much passivity is going to get old fast.

Be creative. Think about each sentence: what do you want to emphasize? How can you construct a sentence that gets your point across and is engaging to read? Passive voice may be the answer, but it may not. (For a slightly more in-depth look at times when the passive voice is your friend, check out this instructive post by fellow WordPress blogger Elijah Cain.)

This may seem a bit nebulous, and that’s because it is. We don’t actually want to give you a pop quiz, we just want you to think about the function of voice when evaluating your writing. When we check out each others’ posts, we’re hoping to read a bunch of creatively written stories that really draw us into the scenes y’all are painting; nothing more.

PS: For inspiration, distraction, and a chuckle, WordPresser You Knew What I Meant recently posted about what happens when the passive voice goes completely awry.

PPS: Have you taken our user survey yet? No? Now’s as good a time as any!

*Yes, I did that on purpose.

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    1. TRIMAH KASI BNYAK MBAH,NMOR TOGEL YG MBAH BRIKAN TMBUS LAGI YAITU 3D (676),AKHIRNYA SYA DPAT MLUNASI HUTANG2 SYA YG DI BANK BRI. YG MAU SPERTI SYA HUB MBAH RORO DI 0853-9938-5434 DIJAMIN ANGKA YG DBRIKAN MBAH RORO TMBUS 100% THANKS YA

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  1. re: “….The Daily Post highlights grammar issues many of us struggle with. (With which many of us struggle?)”

    rewrite the sentence that gives you problems; i.e. Many of us struggle with the same grammar problems so the Daily Post will highlight those.

    or…The Daily Post hightlights grammar issues and many of us struggle with the most common ones.

    Instead of fighting with a rule, revise.

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    1. +1 to revise rather than fight – just thought I’d draw some attention to a personal peeve of mine, the sentence-ending preposition (although I know we’re allowed to do that now). :)

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      1. You know, when I was in elementary/junior/senior high I absolutely hated the section in English class in which we fixed preposition ended sentences. It was boring and irritating and nothing but an annoyance. Now I absolutely hate when one ends a sentence with a preposition. It is just like “WHAT ARE YOU SAYING HERE?” So kudos to you on bringing your personal pet peeve to mind. You are not the only person with that problem. :D

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    2. Except that that’s an archaic rule not often followed any more that only came about when the framers of the rules of English were trying to get English to be more like Latin, a language that doesn’t allow – by nature of its steadfast rules (of which English has few, if any) – you to end a sentence with a preposition. I say down with that rule! We’ll throw it out with the extra period after a sentence and excessive use of the Oxford comma!

      http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/ending-prepositions.aspx

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      1. Ending sentences with prepositions goes back at least to Chaucer, and Shakespeare did it. Why pay attention to Victorian schoolmarms?

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  2. This is a very interesting issue. Thank you for raising it. I am a grammar freak – and no doubt having said that, others will criticise my English – and I try to take care to write correctly in my posts. However, blogging is much closer to reported speech than other forms of writing. In that case, are we not allowed the occasional split infinitive or preposition ending a sentence? I do it myself because I think it gets me closer to my readers. In other forms of writing I wouldn’t do it. The message, though, is that you can always revise and make your writing more readable.

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    1. I agree that blog writing is different for more formal writing for many of us; I’m sure I offend Grammar in countless ways when I blog! (Well, except for the preposition thing; I’m a traditionalist there.) But I’ve always thought that you should understand the rules first, and then figure out how you can break them to make a point.

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  3. What a great idea. I wish I had more time to write!

    Passive voice seems to me to be well-suited to descriptive writing, so focusing an object is a good plan. Looking forward to seeing what comes of the challenge.

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  4. Sorry – I write in English Grammar which seems to differ somewhat from American Grammar. The old “Two nations divided by a common language” rears its head again ;-)

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    1. As a fellow brit I naturally have to agree with you on this point. I have posted my offering but I knew long before I hit that publish button that it wouldn’t be quite right. I can at least take a little comfort in knowing that my grammar is normally so bad it wouldn’t matter which side of the water my readers might be from.

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    1. No worries, I cleaned it up. :)

      From some casual Googling, I see that the English seem not to share the horror of passive voice inculcated in American students. Still, I’d encourage you to write and explore the way how sentence structure can emphasize/de-emphasize the actor in the name of storytelling.

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      1. I normally read these Writing challenge posts with interest – I’d agree that choice of structure within the sentence can add a great deal to the emphasis of either the character or the situation being encountered in the story. There are times when I’m glad that I mainly write on a documentary stage ;-) Thanks for the response and the interesting post :-)

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  5. Nuts. I just don’t have time with a big wedding coming up. However, the text I borrowed for today’s post WAS full of errors, which I corrected before posting, I hope. Since most of what I post the next few days will be borrowed from the past, each one should be better than the first time it appeared, right? :-)

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    1. You know, I went over this borrowed thing one more time and found it full of passive tense. The frustration! I have fixed it, now and have decided to enter it here, since I nearly re-wrote it and it is the song of my heart. I just found someone else singing it and rearranged her version. Thanks for letting us borrow ideas.
      I do not like today’s grammar because of the new gallop to erase the American serial comma. However, most of the rest is great! I’m a Lynne Truss lover and especially love that she is younger than I am.

      Okay, so here it is for the curious:

      http://katharinetrauger.wordpress.com/2012/08/20/one-moms-description/

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  6. On the topic of spotting out grammatical errors and typos, I’ve found a typo in the post already.
    Where it says “… also be great it you could link to this post to encourage ..”, I believe “if” should be used instead of “it”.

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  7. I spent 30 years as a tech writer in which genre the passive voice is, in theory, forbidden. However, reality has a tendency to intrude of theory. Passive voice is an absolute necessity when (a) you do not wish to reveal the agent of the action, or (b) revealing the agent would require unnecessary levels of complexity.

    There is a time and a place for everything … and a time and place for active vs. passive forms. One must take care what one wishes to convey, if you catch my drift.

    As for typos, until such time as someone offers me the services of a hotshot proofreader, I shall probably retain my title of “Queen of Typos.” I never seem to see them until after I post, then go through 30 versions until I finally weed them all out.

    It seems I only get worse with each passing year.

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