Plan for the Day
- Nothing–be safe from the hurricane
- Chapter 3: Our Versatile Verbs
- Active vs Passive Voice
- Show; Don’t Tell
- Massive Quiz Worth 40 Points
I hope everyone was safe during the hurricane. My place didn’t flood, and we got little wind damage to the neighborhood. Thanks for uploading your Review #1 to Canvas. I’ll have those back to you next week. I’m going to have to adjust your next assignment–Grammar/Usage Essay. In fact, I’m going to combine parts of it with your later Rhetorical Analysis (due 11/14) and create a new assignment–Prose Revisions. This will not be a portfolio assignment, so I’m going to have to adjust some of the grading, but it will all be in your favor. The assignment will be based on September 19th’s lessons.
Chapter 3: Our Versatile Verbs
In the interest of time, I’m going to be strategic about what we cover, so we can fit a lot in. I’m going to assume we all understand be verbs, linking verbs, intransitive verbs, and transitive verbs. If not, review Ch. 2. I would rather us focus on examples than out-of-context pattern recognition, but I assume you’re reading…Is that a good assumption? Today’s discussion will focus on limiting to be verbs and using action verbs for stronger sentences.
Jump over to p. 38, so we can discuss how to keep our tenses straight. It’s pretty easy to remember if I remind you that consistency is key!
Active vs Passive Voice
The first bit of confusion I want to clear up is that passive isn’t synonymous with past tense. A passive voice sentence moves the agent out of the subject position and often turns a direct object into the subject. Although there are times when agent-less sentences are appropriate and conform to organizational or disciplinary conventions, I want you to be aware of how passive voice can be unethical and how active voice can improve sentence clarity.
The goal for your next assignment will be to eliminate excess verbiage (words) from prose selections. As an overview, I have some guidelines below:
- Use Active Voice
- Limit Prepositional Phrases
- Get to the Point
- Limit to be Verb Forms
- Avoid Nominalizations
Let’s do Exercise #9 A & B on p. 41. Be ready to identify agent, subject, and direct object for each sentence. Time permitting, we’ll do C on pp. 41-42.
This Missing Agent
Passive voice may becomes unethical when writers deliberate hide important information, specifically the agent. Consider these gems of passive voice:
- Taxes were raised. (by whom?)
- The car was damaged. (by whom?)
- Mistakes were made. (by whom?)
Don’t assume all agent-less prose is unethical. High-level scientific discourse often uses passive voice to focus on a test, technique, or procedure as opposed to an individual. Scientists believe passive voice appears more objective. Consider the following sentences that could appear in scientific journals:
- Penicillin was applied to the petri dish.
- A dose of 50 mL of penicillin was given to the patient.
Notice how the agent–most likely the author or technicians the author supervised–is missing. You can ask “by whom?” for both. I don’t agree with this on a philosophical level, but scientists strongly believe such a prose style contributes to conveying an objective ethos. Remember, you write according to your audience expectations.
Show; Don’t Tell
Although this is technically in the section before, Exercise #10 is a lesson on showing. Let’s review.
Then, read the two paragraphs on p. 44. You don’t have to aim to eliminate all to be verbs–they exist for a reason. But you should limit them in your prose. One strategy is to search for be verbs and ask if a better action verb could be used in place of am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been.
I’ve been trying to get to this since the first class. Kolln & Gray mention using a thesaurus to find words that more accurately and succinctly express your thought. However, they warn against using esoteric words. Barrett advises writers not to “use a thesaurus to find new words….because a thesaurus does not always indicate which words are appropriate for which contexts” (p. 18). Let’s consider a lesson that highlights this. What’s a common word we could use?
Massive Quiz Worth 40 Points
This quiz is 40 questions worth 1 point each. The first question is your name, so don’t forget that!
Keep up with the reading. We’ll discuss Koln & Gray Ch. 4 and Barrett’s Ch. 6, 7, and 8.