Passive Voice vs. Active Voice

Passive voice vs. Active voice

Many writers use passive voice without realizing it and knowing what it is. This is a problem because it makes sentences difficult to understand. Passive voice confuses readers as to who or what is doing the action of the sentence. The solution is to use active voice.

In this lesson you’ll learn: what passive voice is, how to recognize it in sentences, and how to correct it and make it active voice.

Let’s start by looking at these two sentences:

“The man ate the sandwich.”
“The sandwich was eaten by the man.”

Does one of them seem unnecessarily wordy and awkwardly phrased? That’s what using the passive voice often does to your writing.

 When you use active voice, the subject of the sentence does the action. But when you use passive voice, the subject of the sentence receives the action.

Look again at the first sample sentence. In it, the man (subject) is eating the sandwich (doing the action). The subject is an active participant in what’s going on. This is active voice.

Now look at the second sentence. Here the sandwich is the subject and the man is receiving the action of eating. This is passive voice.

Why is active voice better?
Active voice makes your writing clearer and more concise. Using passive voice can make your writing overly wordy and vague, often resulting in sentences that technically make sense but don’t sound quite right.

There’s also a difference in tone between active and passive voice. Active voice often sounds much stronger and clearer. Meanwhile, passive voice sounds slipperier and more evasive—almost like you’re trying to talk around something rather than addressing it head on.

How to write in active voice
Let’s go back one more time to the man and his sandwich:

“The sandwich was eaten by the man.”

Step 1: Identify the subject of the sentence.

The sandwich was eaten by the man.”

Step 2: Identify the action of the sentence.

“The sandwich was eaten by the man.”

Step 3: Ask who is doing this action?

“The sandwich was eaten by the man.”

Step 4: Rephrase the sentence so the person doing the action is the subject of the sentence:

Then you get: “The man ate the sandwich.”

A quick way to find who or what does the action of a sentence is to look for the words “by the.” What comes after that is usually the subject. Sometimes it’s going to be a little more complicated than this and you might have to use the context of the surrounding sentences to figure out who is doing the action.

Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean that you should always use active voice and never use passive voice. Sometimes passive voice does work better. For example, if the action is more important than who or what is doing that action, and you want to highlight that in your writing, then using passive voice makes more sense. The important thing is to use passive and active voice consciously—know what the effect of using each one will be and which one will most effectively convey what you want to say.

Maud Grauer wrote today’s post. She is new to Dot and Dash and will be working with Erin to write these informative blog posts here and on the Dot and Dash blog, along with other future educational materials. You can email her at Maud@dotanddashllc.com.

Compliment vs. Complement

compliment vs. complement

Compliment and complement sound the same but are spelled differently, so it’s easy to get the two confused in your writing. In this blog post, we’ll discuss their definitions and learn how to remember the two spellings.

Compliment as a verb means saying something nice. As a noun, it means the nice thing that is said.

Examples
Verb: The rat complimented the mouse’s suspenders.
Noun: The rat’s compliment made the mouse smile.

Complement as a verb means to complete. As a noun, it means something that completes.

Examples
Verb: The mouse’s suspenders complemented his outfit.
Noun: The suspenders were the perfect complement to his outfit.

How to remember the difference
Complement sort of looks like the word complete, and it means to complete.

Think complement = complete.

You can also note that both words have an E in the middle (rather than an I).

Quiz
Fill in the blanks below with compliment or complement. The answers are below.

1. Rupert’s jeweled brooch _______s his look.
2. The expensive car was the _______ to her “perfect” life.
3. Tina _______ed her by saying, “You look hotter than a dead raccoon in the afternoon sun.”
4. Hilda hoped to get an A on the test, which would _______ her semester’s perfect grades.
5. The suitor’s _______ was her favorite part of their date.
Answers:
1. complement 2. complement 3. compliment 4. complement 5. compliment

 

Erin Servais is a book editor, author coach, and founder of Dot and Dash LLC, an author-services company. To learn how her team can help you with your writing project, email Erin@dotanddashllc.com or visit www.dotanddashllc.com.

Capital vs Capitol

capitol building with dome against blue sky

Photo by Caleb Perez on Unsplash

Today we’re going to learn the difference between capital and capitol and a method to remember which is which.

Capital means the city that houses a state or country’s main government. It also means money and business assets and the type of letter that is not lowercased. In this post, however, we will be using the first definition.

Examples:
London is the capital of England.
Atlanta is the capital of Georgia

Capitol means the building in which a legislature meets. A legislature is the group of politicians that has the power to make laws.

Examples:
The Capitol Building in Washington, DC, has an iconic dome.
The politicians debated a bill at the capitol well into the night.

How to remember the difference:

“Capital” has an A.
A = Atlanta (capital of the state of Georgia)
OR
A = Athens (capital of Greece)

“Capitol” has an O.
O = dOme
Capitols are often in buildings with domes.

Erin Servais is a book editor, author coach, and founder of Dot and Dash LLC, an author-services company that focuses on women author-entrepreneurs. To learn how she can help you with your next writing project, check out her website.

You can also read her blog about writing here.

Follow Erin on social media:

Twitter: @GrammarParty
Instagram: @dot_and_dash_llc
Facebook: facebook.com/dotanddashllc

What are mass nouns?

a guide to mass nouns

Mass nouns, also called “uncountable nouns”  and “noncount nouns,” are substances, objects, and concepts that cannot be divided into separate parts. By their nature, they can only be plural.

Think about emotions. Let’s take happiness, for instance. Happiness exists as a general idea. You can’t break happiness down into its particles. You cannot hold in your hand one happiness or two happinesses. Thus, it is a mass noun.

The same goes with “sand.” There are beaches filled with sand, but you can’t find one sand. However, you can dig your hand into the ground and come up with grains of sand. This illustrates one of the rules with mass nouns.

You explain how much of a mass noun exists by placing a describing word in front of it.

  • a grain of sand
  • a piece of news
  • a gallon of water

Another rule is that English treats mass nouns as if they were singular, even though they are plural. For instance, instead of using the verb “are,” use “is.”

Correct: This juice is delicious.
Incorrect: This juice are delicious
Correct: Greed is dangerous.
Incorrect: Greed are dangerous

And if a verb drops an “s” with plural nouns, it will keep the “s” for mass nouns.

Correct: The cheese tastes yummy.
Incorrect: The cheese taste yummy
Correct: Your jewelry looks expensive.
Incorrect: Your jewelry look expensive.

Types of Mass Nouns
Here are some of the categories mass nouns fall into with examples:

  • weather: rain, snow, sleet, sunshine
  • feelings: anger, happiness, fear, courage
  • liquids: orange juice, tea, water
  • gasses: air, helium, argon
  • states of existence: childhood, sleep, sickness
  • ideas: advice, motivation, existentialism
  • powder: flour, makeup powder, powdered sugar
  • foods: cheese, rice, pudding, butter

Other Examples

  • traffic
  • art
  • chaos
  • currency
  • education
  • furniture
  • information
  • luggage
  • marketing
  • livestock
  • music
  • patriotism
  • power
  • wood

Erin Servais is a book editor, author coach, and founder of Dot and Dash LLC, an author-services company that focuses on women author-entrepreneurs. To learn how she can help you with your next writing project, check out her website.

You can also read her blog about writing here.

Follow Erin on social media:

Twitter: @GrammarParty
Instagram: @dot_and_dash_llc
Facebook: facebook.com/dotanddashllc

Imply vs. infer

imply vs infer

It’s easy to understand why people get imply and infer confused. Their meanings are related and similar. In this post, I will explain what these two words mean and show you how you can remember the difference between the two.

imply: to suggest or express something in an indirect way

For example, if you are talking to your friend, and you notice their breath reeks of garlic and onions, you may pull out a tin of mints and say “Want one?” as a way of expressing to them indirectly that their breath stinks. In this case, you are implying they have smelly breath.

infer: to conclude, especially from an indirect suggestion

For example, if you just ate garlic and onions for lunch, and your friend asks you if you want a mint, you could infer from their indirect suggestion that you have smelly breath.

Memory aid
When you infer, you are taking in information to analyze in order to come to a conclusion.

So taking in information = infer since they both use in.

You can just remember that imply means the opposite.

With imply, you are putting out suggestions.

With infer, you are taking in information.

Quiz:
Choose either imply or infer for the spaces below.

  1. Trixie yawned and yawned in order to _____ to her guests that it was late and she wanted them to leave.
  2. Trixie looked at her failing quiz grades and _____ed she needed to study really hard for the final.
  3. Trixie stopped answering Brad’s texts, trying to _____ that she didn’t want to talk to him anymore.
  4. Brad gave Trixie flowers and asked what she was doing Friday night, _____ing he wanted to go on a date with her.
  5. When her aunt asked whether she ever wanted kids, Trixie burst out laughing. Her aunt _____ed her answer was no.

1) imply; 2) inferred; 3) imply 4) implying; 5) inferred

Erin Servais is a book editor, author coach, and owner of Dot and Dash LLC, an author-services company helping women reach their publishing goals. To see whether her services are right for you, and to schedule your free five-page sample edit or thirty-minute coaching consultation, email her at Erin@dotanddashllc.com.

 You can also read her blog about writing here: Dot and Dash blog

 Follow Erin on social media:

Twitter: @GrammarParty
Instagram: @dot_and_dash_llc
Facebook: facebook.com/dotanddashllc