Happy Halloween! I hope you all have a ghoulishly good holiday. Today I would like to welcome a guest to my blog. Jo Linsdell is a freelance writer and author. She also organises a free, annual, online event called PROMO DAY for people in the writing industry dedicated to promoting, networking and learning. Welcome Jo!

                                                                      Social Media Marketing: When and how for the best results

                                                                                                             By Jo Linsdell

The growth of the internet and in specific the increase in the number of social media sites, means that the potential for online marketing possibilities is unlimited. Best yet most are completely free.

Given the large number of social media sites available and the number of users each of them has, it’s important to have a marketing plan in order to get the best results,

You’ll obviously want to consider your short and long term goals, your target audience and the type of content you’d like to post.

Something else you should keep in mind is which days and times have the most action on each site.

In a recent study Facebook showed that it’s 500M+ users are most active on weekdays at 11:00 a.m., 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. ET. Twitter users are 3 times more active than average social media users according to another study and another shows Thursday and Friday are the most active days on Twitter, whilst 10-11 pm is the most active hour.

Another study showed that a video on YouTube gets 50% of its views in the first 6 days it is on the site, according to data from analytics firm TubeMogul. After 20 days, a YouTube video has had 75% of its total views.

Although you’ll want to have posts going out throughout the other days too, by being active on these busy periods you increase your chances of being seen by a larger audience.

As for Social news and bookmarking sites, Reddit.com is the most active.

Picture
Graph from http://www.alexa.com

Other ways to get noticed include using hashtags with keywords and tagging people or pages on your posts. A popular use of a hashtag on twitter is 
#followfriday or #FF.


The use of applications to enhance your profiles and posts can also help capture readers.

 
The most important thing to being successful in social media marketing though is to keep it social. If you just promote the whole time people will stop listening. Visit other peoples profiles and leave comments, ‘like’ and ‘retweet’ others posts, ask questions and answer others questions where you can.

 
 
The Queen of English, Mariella Morgan, offered more instructions to my punctuation class at the MuseItUp Online Writing Conference. Today, I'm offering part one of her lesson on the comma. Enjoy.
C.K. Volnek

The Confusing, Confounding, Often-cursed Comma

by Mariella Morgan

There are many rules for using commas -- 23 in one list I saw -- but the one thing they have in common is that all commas separate words, phrases, two dependent clauses, one dependent clause and one independent clause, or two independent clauses.

WHAT YOU NEED TO REMEMBER: COMMAS SEPARATE, THEY DON'T JOIN. If you can remember those five words, you will avoid making the mistake freshmen make most often, the comma splice. I'll talk about that mistake later.

Bryan A. Garner gives nine rules for common use in his book Garner's Modern American Usage, pp. 654-655.


1. "The comma separates items in a list of more than two."
EX: Ham and eggs, steak and eggs, and steak and lobster have been added to the menu.
This examples shows that the Oxford comma, the comma before and, is necessary for clarity many times in sentences and should not be omitted. If you are British, you probably don't use the Oxford comma unless it is necessary for clarity.

2. "The comma separates coordinated main clauses (compound sentence)."
EX: Cars park on the left, and buses park on the right.
Garner notes 2 exceptions -- I know that exceptions are frustrating, but here they are anyway.
1. "When the main clauses are closely related-"
EX: Follow my rules [no comma] and you'll do well here.

2. "When the subject of the second independent clause, being the same as in the first, is not repeated" (also called compound
predicates).
EX: He ran to the door [no comma] and threw it open.

3. "The comma separates most introductory matter from the main clause, often to prevent misunderstanding."
EX: However, I disagree with your agreement. (word)
In the meantime, she waited patiently for her hero to rescue her. (phrases of three or more words or necessary for clarity)
That said, I forgive you for hurting me. (subordinate clauses, even ones with only two words)
Garner gives 1 exception: when the introductory matter is a very short phrase.
EX: On Friday [no comma] I will see my doctor for the test results.

4. "The comma marks the beginning and end of a parenthetical word or phrase, an appositive, or a nonrestrictive clause.
EX: I am sure, therefore, that you will have enough votes to win the election.
Mary Alice Johnson, my sister-in-law, is a new state representative.
Fred, who is new here, complained about the food.
Note: A nonrestrictive clause is a dependent clause that gives the reader information that the main clause doesn't depend on for its meaning. You can leave it out, and you will still have a good sentence.

5. "The comma separates adjectives that each qualify a noun in the SAME WAY. If you could use and between the adjectives, you'll need the comma.
EX: He was a quiet, reserved person.
If the adjectives qualify the noun in DIFFERENT WAYS, don't use a comma between them.
EX: She worn a bright red blouse.

6. "The comma separates a direction quotation from its attribution."
EX: "Honey, I'm home," Desi said.
"A comma is not used to separate quoted speech that is woven into the sentence."
EX: People remember TV catchphrases such as "Honey, I'm home."

7. "The comma separates a participial phrase."
EX: Having had lunch just a few hours before, I wasn't interested in going out for a burger.

8. The comma is used in informal letters at the end of the salutation and the complimentary close.
EX: Dear Abby, Yours truly,

9. "The comma separates parts of an address or a date."
EX: 269 E. Austin Rd., Newport, Iowa October 11, 2010

the Queen of English


 

 

 
 
Hi friends. C.K. here. I'm finally feeling my head once more after the week long on-line MuseItUp writing conference. My brain is full! One class I truly enjoyed and learned so much was the Grammar workshop with the Queen of English, Mariella Morgan. So, with grateful thanks to her for allowing me to offer this valuable information in my blog,  here's Mariella....

Apostrophes, Homonyms, and Grammar, Oh My! Common Mistakes You Might Not Know You're Making and How to Correct Them with Mariella Morgan


The Apostrophe -- Using It Correctly Is Becoming a Lost Art

A little background first --As a proofreader I have read many entertaining and thought-provoking stories over the past year. I have also found some common mistakes in apostrophe use, comma use, and in dialogue in these manuscripts. It’s a well-known fact: if two writers submit great stories to a publisher, the writer with the more polished manuscript in the mechanics of writing has a better chance of receiving a contract than the writer who has many errors in punctuation, grammar, and spelling in her manuscript.

We all have a gift. Mine is understanding how to use the mechanics of English to effectively communicate with others. In other words, I know how to punctuate everything from a simple sentence to a complex dialogue passage. I know how to make subjects agree with verbs and pronouns agree with their antecedents. I know the difference between the verbs lie and lay – that’s a big one!

In this lesson, I address APOSTROPHE use because this flying comma is in danger of becoming extinct if we don’t learn how to use it correctly.

Let’s begin.

There are only two rules for the apostrophe that writers of fiction will use often. Most people seem to understand and follow the rule for using apostrophes to form contractions, so I’ll start with that one.
Rule 1: Use an apostrophe to show where a letter, letters, or numbers have been omitted when forming a contraction.
Examples: have not = haven’t. . . . . . . . . cannot = can’t. . . . . . . . . . .1974 = ‘74
I will = I’ll . . . . . . . . . . . . . . will not = won’t

There are some tricky contractions, though. You must read the complete sentence to grasp their correct meanings. For instance,
He’s already gone to work. --------------- He has already gone to work.
He’s the best man for the job. ----------- He is the best man for the job.
He’d been late before. -------------------- He had been late before.
He’d have liked to see her again. ------- He would have liked to see her again.

The second rule is the one that mystifies many writers. Either they leave the apostrophe out, or they put it where it doesn’t belong or both. You see examples of what I'm talking about on signs everywhere. It baffles me how people can be smart enough to open a business but clueless as to where to put the apostrophe in their signs. I have threatened to carry a can of black paint in the car and correct any errant signs I pass, but since my husband does most of the driving, I'm sure he wouldn't stop the car if I did have the paint ready. Something about a law against defacing private property. I personally think that sign correction is NOT defacing property but enhancing it, but Chris says that judges won't buy my argument.

But I digress. On to the second rule. This rule is written several ways: Use an apostrophe to show possession, to make nouns possessive, to show ownership. Before I give you examples, I want to show you how German shows possession (translated into English). Look at these examples.
the son of Chris. . . . . . . the shoes for ladies. . . . . . . . . . . .the book of the children

In English, it would sound strange if you asked a friend about the son of Chris instead of Chris's son. Now aren’t you glad English has given us a shortcut – the apostrophe?

Rule 2: Use an apostrophe to show ownership. Here are some examples.
First, Chris’s son – Chris is a singular noun, meaning we are talking about only one Chris. For all singular nouns, even those that end in an s, we add an apostrophe and the letter s to the end of the noun. Here we add an s to Chris to make Chris possessive. Whose son is he? Chris’s son.

When we make proper nouns possessive, there are a few exceptions to this rule.
Jesus’ cross . . . .Moses’ tablets . . . .Achilles’ heel . . . .Archimedes’ principle
You have probably realized that these words are ancient. I suppose words that are thousands of years old should have the right to be different.

Second, ladies’ shoes – ladies is a plural noun, meaning there is more than one lady. For all plural nouns that end in an s, we simply add an apostrophe. The word ladies ends in an s, so all we do is add an apostrophe. Whose shoes are they? Ladies’ shoes.

Third, the children’s book – children is a plural noun, but the word children does not in an s. For all plural nouns that do not end in an s, we add an apostrophe and the letter s to the end of the plural noun. We add an apostrophe and an s to children to make the word possessive. Whose book is that? The children’s book.

Let’s consider how an apostrophe changes the meaning of sentences to show just how important using them correctly really is. Here are three pictures that illustrate the differences in meaning with and without an apostrophe and where the apostrophe is placed. As much as I love words, a picture is certainly worth a thousand words.

I am trying to add the pictures. If they aren't here, please use your imagination.

The first example -- Look at the boys box. Without an apostrophe, boys is a plural noun, and box is a verb.
The second example -- Look at the boy's box. The apostrophe between the y and s makes boy a singular noun possessive. The box belongs to one boy.
The third example -- Look at the boys' box. The apostrophe after the s makes boys, a plural noun, possessive. The box belongs to two boys.

In the last example, two boys owned one box. What if we used the boys' names, Sam and Sammy? The sentence would read -- Look at Sam and Sammy's box. LOOK CLOSELY-- only one apostrophe attached to the second boy's name.

Rule 2 part 2: If two people own one thing, attach the apostrophe to the second person's name. If two people own something separately, attach an apostrophe to each person's name and make the object they own plural.
Look at Sam's and Sammi's boxes. You could also write: Look at Sam's box and Sammi's box.

When don't you use apostrophes to show ownership? Good question.
Example 1: When three or more people own the same thing, do as the Germans do. Use a prepositional phrase beginng with of.
Look at Sam, Sammy, Sammi, and Samuel's home. I can't add the Pollard quadruplets because the phrase would have to describe home, which wouldn't make sense.
Better: Look at the home of Sam, Sammy, Sammi, and Samuel, the Pollard quadruplets.

Example 2: When you have a string of apostrophes, again use a prepositional phrase instead.
Look at my brother's math teacher's parents' home -- a mess of a sentence.
Better -- Look at the home of the parents of my brother's math teacher.

I know I said there were only two rules for apostrophes, but before I close this lesson on apostrophes, I feel compelled to add one more rule.
Rule 3: Never use an apostrophe to make a noun plural. I see this mistake often when I proof manuscripts. In English we usually add s or es to a noun to form the plural. Look at these examples -- no apostrophes anywhere!!!
one cat – two cats. . . . . . . one box – two boxes. . . . . . . one city – two cities
Note the spelling change in cities.

Irregular nouns are nouns that don’t add s or es to the singular form to make the plural form. Here are some examples of irregular nouns. Still no apostrophes!!!
one child – two children. . . . .one woman – two women. . . . . .one man – two men

WHAT YOU NEED TO REMEMBER: AN APOSTROPHE IS USED EITHER WITH A PERSON'S NAME OR A NOUN TO SHOW OWNERSHIP OR TO STAND FOR A LETTER THAT HAS BEEN LEFT OUT. IF NO ONE OWNS ANYTHING OR NOTHING IS LEFT OUT, YOU DON'T WANT AN APOSTROPHE.

Mariella Morgan
the Queen of English
 
 
Here is a great exercise from one of my courses at the Muse Online Writer's Conference this week. Plot Your Novel in 15 Minutes or Less was offered by Claudia Suzanne and this was such a fun exercise. So... take it away Claudia.

There is an old Hollywood trick that makes first-stage plotting a snap and leaves plenty of room for later development, character intrusion, and twists. It's so simple, it's almost absurd, but you won't think so after you've tried it a couple of times. Best of all, it's a fantastic device for brainstorming. It all comes down to this: Simply decide where the story begins and ends, and let imagination and logic fill in the gaps.

Here it is -- the whole thing:

Number a piece of paper from one to fifteen. Write a one-line blurb of where the story begins next to number one. Then jump down to the bottom and write the ending next to number fifteen. Now go back to the top and write a blurb for what happens after the opening next to number two. Scoot down to number fourteen to write what happened just before the story ends. Continue bouncing up and down from the top of the page to the bottom and in a matter of minutes—voila! Modify this basic outline of the entire novel with additional sequences, subplots, and character PMA+A to bring the story to life.


Yup, that's it. It's called Meet-in-the-Middle, and it's been used by scriptwriters for decades. It only creates a bare-bones structure, of course, but often it’s those missing middle points that cause Writer’s Block. The fifteen scenes created with Meet-in-the-Middle are the highlights, or major and secondary plot points of the story.

So let's do one to see how it works. The example below is a quick boy-girl story mapped out in eight easy steps by my friend and I over breakfast one morning. We just wanted to play with the technique. It took us about 12-13 minutes to put this together between mastication and coffee slurps. Note: for the record, my friend is ex-military/merc/cop. He writes "attack" poetry.

STEP 1

The story begins when boy meets girl. The boy is Bill; the girl is Sandy.
The story ends with Bill killing a murderer. Why? See note above.

1. Bill and Sandy meet.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.
13.
14.
15. Bill kills the murderer.

STEP 2

Back to the top. Bill and Sandy's true-love-sailing-smoothly needs some kind of interference or there is no story. What better interference than an ex-lover showing up? Whether it is Bill’s ex-wife or an ex-girlfriend does not matter right now.

1. Bill and Sandy meet.
2. Bill's ex shows up.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.
13.
14. Bill finds Sandy being held/tortured by murderer.
15. Bill kills the murderer.

Back down here. There’s really no point in Bill killing a murderer unless that murderer is somehow impacting him personally. What would cause a nice, even-tempered guy like Bill to go after a murderer? Maybe he thinks the lout has hurt his girlfriend. Guess he has to find her there to know that…

STEP 3

Up here again. They’ve met; Bill’s ex has shown up. The only logical next step is for Bill and Sandy to get into a fight over the ex, eh? Welcome to Boy loses Girl.

1. Bill and Sandy meet.
2. Bill's ex shows up.
3. Sandy and Bill fight and break up.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.
13. The murderer tortures Sandy.
14. Bill finds Sandy being held/tortured by murderer.
15. Bill kills the murderer.

If Bill’s going to find Sandy with the murderer, the murderer must be taking his time rather simply killing her. Hence, a torture scene.

STEP 4

What’s a girl to do when she’s just broken up with her lover because his ex showed up unannounced? Probably go drown her sorrows at a local bar. She's pretty vulnerable, so it wouldn’t occur to her that the guy she meets at the bar might want more than just a goodnight kiss.

1. Bill and Sandy meet.
2. Bill's ex shows up.
3. Sandy and Bill fight and break up.
4. Sandy goes to a nightclub and meets the murderer.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.
12. Murderer kidnaps Sandy.
13. The murderer tortures Sandy.
14. Bill finds Sandy being held/tortured by murderer.
15. Bill kills the murderer.

If the murder is going to hold/torture Sandy, then he logically has to kidnap her first!

STEP 5

Bill loves Sandy, not his ex. Is he going to sit around and dilly-dally with an old girlfriend/lover/wife when his current heartthrob is out there somewhere, maybe meeting someone new? He is not! He’s going to go out and look for her.

1. Bill and Sandy meet.
2. Bill's ex shows up.
3. Sandy and Bill fight and break up.
4. Sandy goes to a nightclub and meets the murderer.
5. Bill heads out to look for Sandy.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
11. Bill's ex sics the murderer on Sandy, and in return, he kills her.
12. Murderer kidnaps Sandy.
13. The murderer tortures Sandy.
14. Bill finds Sandy being held/tortured by murderer.
15. Bill kills the murderer.

Why did the murderer decide to pick Sandy, out off all the girls in the bars and on the streets, to kidnap and torture? Why, Bill’s ex must have sic’d him on her. So naturally, he’d turn around and kill her. Hey, he's a murderer, remember?

STEP 6

Bill has just walked out on his ex to go look for his current love. Is she going to take that? Absolutely not! If she didn’t care about him, why did she show up again in the first place? She’s still got her charms, and he’s pretty vulnerable right now since Sandy walked out. All she’s got to do is follow him and seduce him the way she used to before they broke up.

1. Bill and Sandy meet.
2. Bill's ex shows up.
3. Sandy and Bill fight and break up.
4. Sandy goes to a nightclub and meets the murderer.
5. Bill heads out to look for Sandy
6. Bill's ex follows him and brings him home to bed.
7.
8.
9.
10. Bill throws his ex out.
11. Bill's ex sics the murderer on Sandy and in return, he kills her.
12. Murderer kidnaps Sandy.
13. The murderer tortures Sandy.
14. Bill finds Sandy being held/tortured by murderer.
15. Bill kills the murderer.

How would the ex sic the murderer on Sandy if Bill hadn’t told her to leave? He does, thereby setting the rest of the action in motion.

STEP 7

Sandy still loves Bill. She’s left the bar with the mur-derer, which is why Bill and the ex don’t find her, but she doesn’t go home with the guy, she gives him a handshake and one of those “if only we’d met at another time” lines and goes home where, of course, the ex has bedded her honey-bunny.

1. Bill and Sandy meet.
2. Bill's ex shows up.
3. Sandy and Bill fight and break up.
4. Sandy goes to a nightclub and meets the murderer.
5. Bill heads out to look for Sandy
6. Bill's ex follows him and brings him home to bed.
7. After kissing the murderer goodnight, Sandy finds Bill in bed with his ex.
8.
9. Bill tells his ex he loves Sandy; she threatens to make him sorry.
10. Bill throws his ex out.
11. Bill's ex sics the murderer on Sandy and in return, he kills her
12. Murderer kidnaps Sandy.
13. The murderer tortures Sandy.
14. Bill finds Sandy being held/tortured by murderer.
15. Bill kills the murderer.

Before Bill throws his ex out, he’s got to realize he really loves Sandy, not her. And since she decides to be a creep and set Sandy up for the murderer, Bill probably tells her in such a way that she gets furious and vengeful. How would he know there’s a murderer running around out there?

STEP 8

The story has met in the middle. Right after Sandy finds Bill in bed with his ex and just before Bill tells the ex he loves Sandy, not her, Sandy has to become vulnerable to the murderer. Ergo, she logically runs out of the house.

1. Bill and Sandy meet.
2. Bill's ex shows up.
3. Sandy and Bill fight and break up.
4. Sandy goes to a nightclub and meets the murderer.
5. Bill heads out to look for Sandy
6. Bill's ex follows him and brings him home to bed.
7. After kissing the murderer goodnight, Sandy finds Bill in bed with his ex.
8. Devastated by Bill's infidelity, Sandy goes running out of the house.
9. Bill tells his ex he loves Sandy; she threatens to make him sorry.
10. Bill throws his ex out.
11. Bill's ex sics the murderer on Sandy and in return, he kills her.
12. Murderer kidnaps Sandy.
13. The murderer tortures Sandy.
14. Bill finds Sandy being held/tortured by murderer.
15. Bill kills the murderer.

There it is: a complete plot foundation with plenty of room to impose character quirks and interaction, subplots, characterization, motivation, etc., etc., etc. Continue to map out the "What happens next?" in an outline or do a seat-of-the-pants with these 15 points as your backup. Either way, this is the spinal column of the story, so to speak, to which appendages, sinew, muscle, even toenails can be added; i.e., a basic story that can now be fleshed out into chapters.

"Excerpted from Before Copy Editing by Claudia Suzanne (WCPublishing, 2010) http://wambtac.com.

Hope you enjoyed this as much as I did!
C.K. Volnek
 
 
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Monday starts an incredible week for me. The annual Muse Online Writer’s Conference begins. http://themuseonlinewritersconference.com/ Actually, it’s already begun…I’ve already had homework!

If you’ve never experienced this FREE workshop, you don’t know what you’re missing. It’s a magical smorgasbord of teachers, authors and publishers, all geared to one goal…to make you a better writer. Whether you want to pitch a story, learn about punctuation, how to develop magnetic characters, write great dialogue, or learn the ins and outs of marketing your published book, it’s all here, at your fingertips. You can take as few, or as many, workshops as you want. For me… this year will be challenging. I finally forced myself to stop at 36 workshops. Having three books coming out next year, I have a lot I want to learn in editing, proofing and marketing.

I’ve been coming to this online event for several years now and each year it gets bigger and better. Lea Schizas and staff are the most delightful and diligent team I’ve ever seen and provide a truly memorable conference. And the lineup of presenters this year is fabulous.

Registration for this year's FREE event is closed. (Be sure to sign up for next year!) But I’ll pop in to my blog and share some of the tremendous diamonds I know I’m going to be learning. I hope you’ll find them as useful as I know I will.

Cheers. I’m raising my can of diet coke. I know I’m going to need all the caffeine I can get to make it though this next week.

C.K. Volnek
 
 
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The Passive Voice...

the sleeping beast. It can be a confusing monster, sneaking into your writing when you least expect it.

I found a web page that had a delightful handout regarding this subject. Dr. Wheeler teaches composition and literature at Carson-Newman College and had this handout on his site.

I hope you enjoy his great take on understanding and curing the ... Passive Voice.

To read more, visit:
http://web.cn.edu/kwheeler/gram_passive_voice.html  

Passive Voice
(Why It is Evil and How to Recognize It.)

Two "voices" occur in English grammar: active voice and passive voice. The difference is subtle at first, but it's easy to master once the grammarian understands the basics. Look at the subject and the main verb in the two sentences below:

(A) The boy hit the ball.

(B) The ball was hit. (Or, "The ball was hit by the boy").


In sentence A, we might ask ourselves, what is it that does the hitting? The answer is the subject, boy. That subject is actively performing the verb; it is actively "doing" the verb hit to a direct object (the ball). This virtuous sentence is in active voice.

In sentence B, we might ask ourselves what is the subject? (ball.) What is the subject doing? (nothing.) The subject is not hitting anything else. So who exactly is doing the verb to hit? It is not clear unless we stick a prepositional phrase "by the boy" on the end of the sentence. The subject is passively sitting, doing nothing, while some outside agent performs the action (hitting). Since the subject of the sentence is passive grammatically, this wicked sentence in is passive voice.

Note: Sometimes the passive voice sentence is necessary when the speaker wants to hide the agent or obscure what occurs. For instance, a governor up for reelection might say, "In the last election, taxes were raised over the course of the year." The passive voice sentence hides the agent. It would be uncomfortable for him to tell potential voters, "In the last election, I raised taxes over the course of the year." In that last sentence, the one doing the action is painfully clear! This type of situation is one of the few times that passive form proves useful, albeit in a somewhat deceptive way I would discourage.

In almost all other cases, it is better rhetoric to use active voice. It is a better choice for several reasons:

(1) Active voice sentences are often more concise than passive voice. Expressing the same idea in passive voice frequently takes 30% to 40% more words:

The fighter punched Ali and dodged the uppercut. (Active voice--8 words)

Ali was punched by the fighter, and then an uppercut was dodged by him. (Passive voice--14 words, about 40% longer)

In the last generation, the family built a new house and raised a new brood of children. (Active voice: 17 words)

In the last generation, a new house was built by the family, and a new brood of children was raised by them. (Passive voice--25 words, about 30% longer)

(2) Passive voice requires more "weak" words. It uses abstract words like is /am /are /was /were /being /been, the demonstrative pronoun (the), and prepositions like by and of. These are dull and shapeless in contrast with "strong" words: i.e., concrete nouns, powerful verbs, and vivid adjectives. Good writers try to avoid these empty, weak words and replace them with strong words.

However, passive voice often traps writers. To make clear who is doing what, writers using passive voice must either tag unwieldy phrases at the end of clauses, such as "by so-and-so," or they must leave out this phrase and let the sentence become unclear.

The airplane was flown to Bermuda (by the pilot).

The crackers were eaten (by the puppy) and the bowl was licked clean (by the puppy).

In the moonlight, the tango was danced (by the couple).

To be verbs and the prepositions do not add much to the sentence in terms of color. It would be better to write the following:

The pilot flew the airplane to Bermuda.

The puppy ate the crackers and licked the bowl clean.

In the moonlight, the couple danced the tango.

Remember, the heart of your sentence beats in its strong verbs, concrete nouns, and vivid description! Prepositions and articles are dead weight. If you understand that, your writing will be more direct and powerful if fewer prepositions and articles clog your sentences. Using active voice consistently is one way to ensure that doesn't happen.

(3) The passive voice clause can be confusing or unclear, especially in long sentences.

My car has been driven to Dallas.

(By whom? By the speaker? By a car-thief? By the teletubbies?)

Sixteen thousand calories were consumed in one sitting.

(Who is doing this monstrous act of dietary suicide?)

Five FBI agents entered the room, and the terrorist was plastered against the wall.

(Does that mean the five FBI agents plastered the terrorist against the wall? Or does it mean when the five FBI agents entered the room, the terrorist had plastered himself against the wall? Or did someone else entirely plaster the terrorist against the wall before the FBI arrived? It is impossible to tell with passive voice structure in the last clause.)

However, the author frequently doesn't know who did the action either.The agent doing the action might truly be unknown.

A woman was mugged last night in Las Vegas.

My diary has been stolen!

In sentences like these, it is difficult to assert whether it would be better to leave the passive voice (which in this case is fairly concise), or to add active voice structure (which in these cases, adds extra length). When in doubt, I suggest you stick with active voice.

An assailant mugged a woman last night in Las Vegas.

A thief stole my diary!

(4) Passive voice often leads to awkward or stilted writing, especially in academic arguments in which the student dons a "scholarly" tone.

When a reason is to be considered by readers for an argument that has been made by a writer, it is fitting that their analysis be based upon the latest statistical evidence.

If consensus cannot be reached, compromises should be made, and then negotiations should be undertaken by both parties with arbitration done by an outside listener.

Ugh! What lousy sentences! It hurts my head to read them. These sound more like jumbled "scholarese" rather than useful, direct, rhetorical exhortations. If sentence after sentence appears in this twisted format, the writer will drive the reader insane with his contorted, artificial syntax. Nobody speaks that way, so why write that way?

(5) Linguistic studies show that native English speakers are better able to remember material they read in active voice than the same material in passive voice. Something about the English speaker's mind remains geared toward a "Subject-Verb-Object" pattern. Passive voice sentences somehow derail that mental process of retention. If you want your readers to remember what you write, use active voice. If they better remember the material you spent so much time writing, you have a better chance at creating an argument that will stick with them and change their way of thinking.

Three Warning Signs of the Unholy Sentence Construction (Passive Voice)

If you spot the dreaded passive voice, cleanse your paper of its infernal taint! Convert the sentence to active voice. Ask yourself three questions to identify the evil sentence.

1. Is there a form of the verb "to be" in the sentence, such as is/ am/ are/ was/ were/ be/ being /been? (It is impossible to create the passive voice unless the author uses a "to be" verb.)

2. Could one insert the phrase "by so-and-so" after the verb? If so, would the sentence still make sense? If so, you may have passive voice. For instance, "the dog was fed" (by his owner).

3. Identify the subject and the main verb in the clause. Is the subject "doing" the action? Or is it sitting passively while some outside agent "does" the verb to the subject?

Passive Voice Exercise:

Egad! Some grammatical vandal has converted E. B. White's active voice sentences into passive voice structure. Rescue his writing! Convert the passage to active voice, and compare the two.

Exercise A:

One summer, along about 1904, a camp was rented by my father on a lake in Maine, and we were taken there for the month of August. Ringworm was gotten from some kittens, and Pond's Extract had to be rubbed on our arms and legs night and morning, and a canoe was rolled over in by my father with all his clothes on; outside of that the vacation was thought to be a success, and from then on it was thought that there was no place like that lake in Maine. It was returned to summer after summer--always on the first of August for one month. Since then a saltwater man has been made out of me, but sometimes in summer I am made to wish for the placidity of a lake in the woods by the restlessness of the tides and the fearful cold of the sea water in the afternoon and evening, which is blown across by the incessant wind. A few weeks ago this feeling was experienced by me so strongly that a couple of bass hooks and a spinner were bought and the lake that used to be visited by us was returned to by me for a week's fishing to be done and for old haunts to be revisited.

--adapted from "Once More to the Lake," by E. B. White.

(Forgive, me, Mr. White, for the stylistic blasphemy I have made of your work.)

Exercise B:

Convert the following to active voice and hear how much easier it is to understand!

My dating life has been ruined by my new room mate, Joey. Joey's not a rude guy, or anything. Far from it, he's actually friendly and good-natured. Women are driven from my life by his lack of house cleaning. Our apartment is the social equivalent of a cancerous tumor. When the building is entered by one of my dates, the first object that is noticed by her is that a trashcan is moldered in by an apple half-eaten by someone. The edge of the television is drooped over by a slice of week-old pizza. She is buzzed at angrily by a swarm of flies, before a pile of unwashed socks is settled back down on by them. Perhaps those socks gleamed white in some distant age, fresh from K-Mart, but no longer. Visitors are nauseated by the smell; the coup de grace is administered by that part. When the apartment is entered by a woman, the girl is fought back against by the apartment. Invaders are driven off by Joey's slovenliness far more effectively than any security system. Sure, small talk will be made by the girl for a while, whose nose is wrinkled up by her. Sure, a drink or two will be had, and the bottle and glass eyed suspiciously for unidentifiable stains. The problem is that the apartment is never stayed in long by her, and my phone calls are never returned by her afterward. A new room mate is needed by me. Otherwise, my love life will be destroyed by Joey.

http://web.cn.edu/kwheeler/gram_passive_voice.html