Written by David Hatz, Retired Teacher and Coach

 

         Let’s start the day with a quick survey. Read the following pairs of sentences, and then
determine which one you prefer in each set. Consider which is clearer, and easier to read.


         1. She slammed on the brakes as the car sped downhill.
         2. The brakes were slammed on by her as the car sped downhill.


         1. More than one-third of the students failed the exam.
         2. The exam was failed by more than one-third of the students.

 

         1. The sound engineers will remix the soundtrack.
         2. The soundtrack will be remixed by the sound engineers.


         I’m confident that you preferred the first sentence in each case. I certainly hope so because
all three sentences are written in active voice, as opposed to passive voice – in which all three
of the second sentences were written.
         Since some of you may not be clear on the difference between active and passive voice,
let’s do a quick review.
         Writing in active voice is critical to becoming a good writer because it follows a clear subject
+ verb + object construct that is easy to read and can make your writing more impactful. Passive
voice, on the other hand, can make for unclear, roundabout, and more wordy sentences.
         Looking back at the sample sentences, we see that in his instance the No. 1 sentences
follow the subject+verb+object construct:
         She (subject) slammed (verb) on the brakes (object) as the car sped downhill.
         Students (subject) failed (verb) the exam (object).
         Engineers (subject) will remix (verb) the soundtrack (object).


         In other words, active voice describes a sentence where the subject performs the action(s)
of the verb(s). Conversely, in passive voice the subject is acted upon by the verb. Again, using
the sentences above:
         The brakes (object) were slammed (verb) by her (subject) as the car sped downhill.
         The exam (object) was failed (verb) by more than one-third of the students (subject).
         The soundtrack (object) will be remixed (verb) by the sound engineers (subject).

         Before we examine more examples, let’s stress the importance of why writers should use
active voice, and, with rare exceptions, avoid passive voice wherever possible.
         Active voice immediately identifies both the action and who or what is performing the
action, adding clarity and precision to your words.
         For example,
Passive voice: The dog was walked my Maria.
Active voice: Maria walked the dog.
         The second example doesn’t mince words and gets straight to the point.

         Remember, active voice adds impact to your writing, and makes It sound as if you are
observing the action. Thus, active voice more easily engages readers and keeps them
interested, while passive voice makes it appear as if people or objects are waiting for things to
happen.
         Here four tips that will help you write in active voice and keep your sentences clear and
engaging:
         1. Put the subject first so it’s clear who is performing the action;
         2. Avoid/limit the passive verb “to be.” Use a search engine if you need a list of “to be”
         verbs;
         3. When possible, swap -ing ending words of -ed. Gerunds and present participles (words
         ending in -ing) tend to be passive than verbs ending in -ed;
         4. Go easy on the adverbs. They may make your writing more descriptive, but too many
         adverbs and intensifiers bog down good writing. Better to select rhetorically accurate
         verbs, which eliminate the need for adverbs.
         Here are a few examples of how descriptive verbs make adverbs unnecessary:
                 Adverb Descriptor                                                  Better Verb
                 “ran quickly”                                                            Dashed
                 “listened secretly”                                                  Eavesdropped
                 “looked menacingly”                                              Glared
                 “loved dearly or greatly”                                        Adored
                 “cried uncontrollably”                                            Sobbed or Wept

 

         If you are still not certain or convinced that active voice is preferable to passive voice, here
are some more examples:

                 Active Voice                                                             Passive Voice

Beautiful giraffes roam the savannah.                    The savannah is roamed by beautiful giraffes.

We are going to watch a movie tonight.                  A movie is going to be watched by us tonight.

The crew paved the entire stretch of highway.      The entire stretch of highway was paved by the crew.

Thousands of tourists visit the Grand                     The Grand Canyon is visited by thousands of tourists every year.                                                                     Canyon every year.

 

 

Exceptions to the Rule

 

         All that said, there are times when passive voice is not only acceptable but may be
preferred. You might want to use it in the following situations:

         1. The actor is unknown:
         The cave paintings of Lascaux were made in the Upper Old Stone Age. (We don’t know
         who made them.)
         2. The actor is irrelevant:
         An experimental solar power plant will be built in the Australian desert. (We are not
         interested in who is building it.)
         3. You want to be vague about who is responsible:
         Mistakes were made. (Common in bureaucratic writing.)
         4. You are talking about a general truth:
         Rules are made to be broken. (By whomever, whenever.)
         5. You want to emphasize the person or thing acted on. For example, it may be your main
         topic:
         Insulin was first discovered in 1921 by researchers at the University of Toronto. It is still
         the only treatment available for diabetes.
         6. You are writing in a scientific genre that traditionally relies on passive voice. Passive
         voice is often preferred in lab reports and scientific research papers, most notably in the
         Materials and Methods section:

         The sodium hydroxide was dissolved in water. This solution was then titrated with
         hydrochloric acid.


The Lighter Side


         And if you’re still reading, here are a few more bloopers culled from church bulletins and
announcements that once again remind us that everybody needs an editor:


         “The sermon this morning: ‘Jesus Walks on the Water.’ The sermon tonight: ‘Searching for
Jesus.’ ”


         “The Rector will preach his farewell message, after which the choir will sing “Break Forth into
Joy.”


         “The ladies of the Church have cast off clothing of every kind. They may be seen in the
basement on Friday afternoon.”


         Until next time, write on!

Written by Cecilia Ymaz, Sophomore at CVHS


Have you ever wondered if there was more than just the templates that Google Slides or PowerPoint provide you with? Well, the answer is YES. There are several websites that provide free, unique templates for a variety of presentations. The most popular are Slidesgo and Slides Carnival. Check out this tutorial to see how to download and use a template from Slidesgo today!


Step 1: Choose a template from Slidesgo. On the homepage, you will find several categories that will help you look for a template that will best suit your presentation.

 

 

Step 2: Click “Google Slides” located at the bottom right corner of the screen. You may download a PowerPoint presentation, too.

 

Step 3: Click “Make a copy.” This will store the slides into your default Google account.

 

Step 4: Create a BLANK presentation and click “Import theme,” located at the bottom right corner of the screen. Then, click the most recent presentation in your Drive.

 

Step 5: Once you have your presentation set up with a new template, you can go to “Layout” and find the rest of the customized slides.

Written by David Hatz, Retired Teacher and Coach

 

         I’m guessing most of you are familiar with the adage “Practice makes perfect.” This is
certainly true if you have ever taken lessons in the arts – musical instruments, voice, dance (to
name a few) – played organized sports (all of them), or learned a skill like cooking.
         Practice makes perfect is the mantra of teachers, coaches and instructors of pretty much
every teachable skill.
         Early in my coaching career I learned that this familiar phrase, now cliché, needs to be
amended. While practice can make perfect (if students work diligently to improve with the goal
of achieving perfection), learners often become distracted, lose interest, etc., and then simply
go through the motions or, worse, skip practice altogether. Raise your hand if you’re guilty of
this transgression – yes, mine is stretched high into the air.
         Since this is reality, this inspirational phrase should be modified to: “Practice makes
permanent.” Because if one works hard and strives to improve, s/he will get better and maybe
reach perfection. But those who merely go through the motions will develop bad habits and
plateau, likely at an unacceptable level. And when game time or showtime arrives, that is how
they will perform – well short of perfection.
         So, whether you are learning a new skill or a developing one that requires constant
refinement, the message is simple: work hard, strive to improve, or don’t bother. As the sign on
many a locker-room wall reads: “Go hard, or go home.”
         This is particularly true in writing. While many students embrace practicing in athletics and
the arts, and thus willingly dedicate countless hours hoping to achieve perfection, far fewer of
them are willing to expend similar time and effort on writing projects.
         Young writers, whether desiring proficiency or excellence, must understand that good
writing does not happen by accident and certainly is not achieved through last-minute all-
nighters or hastily rewritten first or second drafts with “final drafts” that merely include
superficial changes from the original.
         I will provide some writing tips in future blogs that I hope you will find use as you work to
develop your writing prowess.


Rereading Encouraged

         I have used this space before to demonstrate how homonyms, homographs, and
homophones can make it difficult to learn English, especially for (but certainly not limited to)
second-language learners. Following are some heteronyms (words that are spelled identically
but have different sounds and meanings) that may cause some readers to do a double-take:
1. The insurance was invalid for the invalid in the hospital bed.
2. There was a row among the oarsman about who would row.
3. They were too close to the door to close it.
4. A buck does funny things when does (females) are present.
5. A seamstress and a sewer fell into the sewer line.
6. Upon seeing the tear in her painting, the artist shed a tear.
7. How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?
8. I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.

9. To help with the planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
10. When he opened his eyes, he saw a saw.
Finally, there was the seamstress whose skills were average at best – they were only sew sew.

Poetic Justice?

One fowl is a goose,
         but two are called geese.
Yet the plural of mouse
         should never be meese.
If I speak of a foot
         and you show me your feet –
And I give you a boot,
         would a pair be called beet?
If one is a tooth
         and a whole set are teeth,
Then shouldn’t the plural of booth
         be called beeth?