Writing Essentials - Tips and Techniques

Utilise this movella to aid your writing needs from punctuation to correct verb usage! You will review important mechanics of writing in order to create sentences that express coherence and fervour. Each chapter in this movella will discuss various writing tools that have the ability to turn any piece of writing into a magnificent work of art.

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4. Active and Passive

Also known as transitive and intransitive verbs, writing can be strengthened or weakened when these two styles are used. Not every sentence needs a strong impact in your story or essay. There can be soft sentences as well to provide additional information—just be sure to stay on topic.

When writing in the active voice—intransitive verbs—the sentence becomes direct and emphasises the verb done by the subject.

The vase broke.

I enrolled in a difficult class.

Notice how the verb immediately follows the subject.

When writing in the passive voice—transitive verbs—the sentence becomes indirect and emphasises the verb done by the object or to the subject.

The vase has broken.

I have been enrolled in a difficult class.

With passive voice, the verb often becomes a past participle and will fall at the end of a sentence.

 

Lie and Lay

These two mischievous words deserve their own heading because they are frequently misused by even native English speakers.

Lie is the intransitive verb of Lay, which means "recline", or "go down".

I will lie here all night until the sun rises.

Lay is the transitive verb of Lie, which means "put down", or "drop".

Please lay the vase down gently.

What starts to get confusing is the tenses for these buggers.

Lay is the past tense of Lie.

He lay there for two days and did nothing but watch television.

Lain is the past participle of Lie.

He has lain here ever since she broke up with him.

Laid is the past tense of Lay.

The chicken laid 20 eggs within a week.

Laid is also the past participle of Lay.

If you had laid the vase down gently, it would still be intact.

 

In order to understand when and where active and passive voice are better to use, make sure that active voice is referring to the main subject of your sentence, paragraph, or topic in an essay. Only use the passive voice to say something that may not be as important or should not draw too much attention.

Kevin brought the cake to the birthday party. The cake was baked very well because it was made with ingredients that Kevin harvested from his garden.

You will often run into the word was when using the passive voice, especially when you are writing simple sentences. Some words like have, been, and has are also used. Naturally, however, some sentences are forced to become passive because of the stance they have in the context. Inanimate objects usually force passive speech upon themselves, along with objects that do not have an owner.

Essentially, you should always avoid writing in the passive voice because this often creates longer, redundant sentences that are very weak. Instead, when creating intransitive sentences, you are drawing attention toward the subject rather than toward the verb.

Take a look at these two sentences.

He was crouching in the corner and shivering with the fear that was doused over him.

versus...

He crouched in the corner, shivering with fear that doused over him.

Notice how short the second sentence is. Moreover, with less participles in the sentence, it becomes more direct toward the main subject, which is "He". The first sentence is just the same; the only problem is that there are too many nouns doing something. The person is crouching, along with a fear that is dousing him. Which is important; the fear or the cowering man? We do not know because it is a transitive sentence.

A simple rule to follow is:

Active voice should be used when the subject is known within context.

Passive voice should be used when the subject is not well known within context.

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