Active Voice vs Passive Voice

Active Voice vs Passive Voice via KLWightman.com
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If you are brave enough to let someone edit your work, be it an academic paper or the third chapter of your novel-in-progress, there’s a good chance that you’ve seen this scribbled out in bold red pen:

Use active voice here.

Well, wouldn’t it be helpful if they explained? Since your editor can’t hyperlink an example on traditional paper, you’re now searching the Internet to figure out the difference between active voice and passive voice.

Your search ends here.

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This Word Makes You a Very Lazy Writer

This Word Makes You a Very Lazy Writer Blog Post via KLWightman.com
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We’ve all used this word when we think, when we speak and when we write. It’s very easy to do.

See? I just used it.

Didn’t catch it? Let’s try this again.

It’s not an elaborate word, a controversial word, an out-of-date word or a trending word. It’s a word that we slip in to our sentence at the very last moment to emphasize our point.

Missed it again? I’ll spell it out for you.

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Should We Make an Appointment to Write?

Should We Make an Appointment to Write?
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Two days ago was my self-proclaimed Treat Yourself Day. I had it all planned out:

  • 9AM: Order a chai bomb at a new coffee shop and write a blog post
  • 11AM: Enjoy a full-body massage with my spa gift certificate
  • 12PM: Order a glass of wine at lunch
  • 1PM: Go shopping!
  • 5PM: Make (vegetarian) paella for dinner and watch a movie
Spa candles and towels

Credit: DeltaHotels.com

Most of the day went as planned. Except for the 9AM part. I pressed snooze so many times on my alarm clock that by the time I was up and ready to go for the day, I didn’t have enough time for that chai bomb or that blog post.

So I read a book instead before the massage. Not a bad alternative.

But I didn’t miss my massage appointment. And I was actually looking forward to my coffee shop time more than the spa experience.

So why did I make sure that I didn’t miss the massage? Because I had an appointment.

Our society holds appointments in high regard. We work hard at not missing them. We schedule them in advance. We feel guilty for pushing them back or cancelling.

But what about writing?

We often plan to write when it’s convenient in our schedule. We easily push it to the side when something somewhat important arises. We press snooze on our writing opportunities so much that we sleep through our chance to write.

Lightbulb

So then I had an epiphany: Why don’t we make writing appointments for ourselves?

We schedule a time in our calendars. We set reminders hours and days before it’s time to get the ball rolling. We have our writing equipment ready to go the night before—just like we do for an appointment.

 

The most important part: We need to reserve a room somewhere.

If we can’t hold ourselves accountable so that we make time to write, then we need to treat our writing time like an appointment.

Call to schedule a room (appointment) at your library or rent a small conference room at your local co-working space. Better yet, make it a weekly appointment so that you’re writing regularly.

The beauty of writing is that we can write at anytime and at anyplace. But if we’re not creating anything, then there’s no beauty nor writing.

Co-Working Space

Credit: workantile.com

Don’t worry, I’m not just talking the talk. I’ve looked into my local options and was surprised at the results. I can purchase a day pass at a nearby co-working space for $35 (with group lunches every Wednesday!). And my local library branch has free study rooms (although they’re first-come, first serve).

Once we are in the habit of making an appointment for our writing, then we can make our writing habit happen anywhere (and eventually at anytime). An appointment is the start of your writing time becoming a healthy habit.

Do you often skip out on your writing time? Share your experience below.

My Beef with Comic Sans

My Beef with Comic Sans Font Typeface
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Boo me all you want. But I can’t stand comic sans.

I cringe at every email signature, every business sign, every website homepage that uses that typeface.

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Yes, the font is ugly. Yes, the font is childish. But no, that’s not why it makes me sigh with despair.

Why would someone create such a spiteful font? Here’s the story.

Back in the 90s, while Vincent Connare worked at Microsoft, he received a beta version of Microsoft Bob, a software package designed for younger users. This package featured a dog named Rover that “spoke” to the user through message balloons – but the font was Times New Roman.

That font won’t do, said Connare. It doesn’t suit the comic situation.

He took it into his own hands to design an appropriate font for the talking dog. Comic books were his inspiration for what we now recognize as comic sans.

But the font wasn’t finalized in time for the release of Microsoft Bob. So it was released in the Windows 95 Plus Pack and later bundled in versions of Windows 95 and the comic movie program 3D Movie Maker.

And yes, it’s still included in Windows and Mac OS programs.

So, why all this love for such a goofy font? Connare shares his thoughts in this interview:

“Regular people who are not typographers or graphic designers choose Comic Sans because they like it. It’s as simple as that. Comic Sans isn’t complicated, it isn’t sophisticated, it isn’t the same old text typeface like in a newspaper. It’s just fun — and that’s why people like it.”

He goes on to say that comic sans haters are just jealous they didn’t invent the typeface…

But I’m not the only one whose skin crawls at the sight of it. In fact, there are many vocal haters of comic sans.

Like Holly and Dave Combs, the creators of Ban Comic Sans. They sum up my sentiments towards the font:

“While we recognize the font may be appropriate in a few specific instances, our position is that the only effective means of ending this epidemic of abuse is to completely ban Comic Sans.” 

Comic sans is fitting for comics or picture books where the situation is playful. But when it leaks into professional scenarios like business cards or resumes, it becomes tacky.

The problem isn’t with the font. The problem is with how the user uses comic sans.

Take a hard look at your writing. What is the genre? Who is the audience? What is the intent of the content?

Then ask yourself: Is comic sans appropriate here?

Ninety-nine out of 100 times, the answer is no.

If the genre involves superheroes, the font can stay. If the font is in the near vicinity of professional, stick to a sleeker typeface.

Do you like comic sans? Share why you like or dislike the font below.

Editing vs. Revising: The Real Difference

Editing vs Revising: The Real Difference blog post via KLWightman.com
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You’ve reached the point in the writing process where it’s time to make some serious changes. Congratulations!

Editing vs. Revising: The Differences

Credit: littlepieceoftape.blogspot.com

Now it’s time to pick up that red pen and make some small and big alterations to your writing. This is called the editing process and the revision process.

Here’s where it gets confusing. The terms editing and revising are often used interchangeably. Even I’m guilty of doing that.

But there are key differences between editing and revising. I like to refer to this chart:

But I can also spell it out.

The Truth About Editing

Editing is about making the surface of the words nice and shiny. It’s like washing your car after driving across the country.

Editing means:

  • Capitalizing proper nouns such as names, places, titles and months
  • Correcting the use of nouns and verbs in sentences
  • Adding or removing punctuation such as periods, quotation marks, commas and apostrophes
  • Fixing misspelled words and awkward phrases
  • Deleting unnecessary words

The Truth About Revising

Revision takes editing beyond the surface level. Revising requires you to focus on the meaning of the words. To put it in another way, revising is like popping the hood on your car to see why it makes that funny noise.

Unlike the editing process, there are two levels to the revision process. That’s because, like a car, fixing that funny noise can lead to another leak you can’t see.

The first level of revising means:

  • Adding or removing sentences
  • Moving sentences or paragraphs to earlier or later in the writing
  • Improving transitions
  • Switching sentences from passive to active voice

The second level of the revising process focuses on the big picture of your writing. It’s about making sure that all the parts are in the right places and that it all flows coherently.

The second level of revising (for an essay or college paper) means:

  • Stating the thesis clearly
  • Ensuring all paragraphs support the thesis
  • Fact-checking all sources
  • Strengthening your argument
  • Interweaving arguments that challenge your thesis and disproving their views

The second level of revising (for a narrative) means:

So, Does Editing Or Revising Come First?

There’s a lot of debate on this subject. And the right answer hasn’t been established yet.

Here’s what I recommend: Start in reverse. Revise your writing by looking at the big picture. Then revise for sentence flow and order. Wrap it up with editing every letter and punctuation mark.

I find this way saves a lot of time. Why spend hours capitalizing words if you end up cutting out that entire paragraph tomorrow?

Sometimes, the editing and revising process overlaps. I often fix the spelling of a word or shift passive into active voice while I’m heightening the action of a scene.

Finding what works for you takes time as well as some trial and error. Even our processes can use some revising and editing.

What do you think the real difference is between revising and editing? Share your thoughts below.

The Headphones Theory: Why You Should Save Your First Draft

The Headphones Theory: Why You Should Save Your Early Drafts
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The Headphones Theory: Why You Should Save Your Early Drafts

My running ritual is to pull on a coordinated running outfit, tie on my running shoes, slather on sunscreen, hook up my headphones and hit the trail.

And, of course, press play.

But a mile into my run, the music blasting from my iPod quickly sounded off. This wasn’t the original song I bought and I was certain that I didn’t download its remix.

My headphones were broken—and I had another 40 minutes to go.

When my headphones break, the song imitates a karaoke track. The main vocals faintly echo the lyrics while guitars and drums take center stage.

In other words, the track gets a bit ugly.

These unintentional remixes reminded me of writing first drafts. These songs were unpolished. These songs were missing key instrumental chords or bass. These songs were never meant to be heard this way.

Same thing with Draft One. The story is mostly word vomit, my hasty attempt to get all my ideas on paper. The story isn’t consistent in tone, character development or plot development. The story at this stage is meant to hide at the bottom of a drawer beneath the heaviest of books.

We feel this way because the story is missing a layer—the editing layer.

Editing is where we fine-tune. That’s when you weave in symbolism and foreshadowing. That’s when you tweak the dialogue or add in coherent chunks of description to fill in those story gaps. That’s where you tie your story up, red bow and all.

And, whenever necessary, add a guitar solo.

By Mile Three, I was studying the pros and cons of these unintentionally remixed tunes. There were many cringe-worthy notes by the lead singer once covered up by loud beats. One rock song even featured chimes that definitely didn’t belong.

But then, out of the blue, a background vocalist will sing with raw emotion that I couldn’t hear above the noise—and it’s beautiful.

So, why all the noise to cover it up?

Sometimes we think that editing will solve all our problems. Once we give ourselves permission to use that red pen, we cross out and scribble over words for the sake of creating something better.

What if we got it right the first time?

That’s why your first draft need to crawl out from its hiding place. Read over your first attempt. Yes, this will be brutally painful. You will shake your head. You will curse yourself. You will wonder why you ever thought writing was your thing.

That is, until you find that one beautiful phrase. You forgot that you wanted your character to feel that way at that particular moment. You crossed out that one important detail that adds value to your character development. You scribbled over that one genius line of dialogue that fills in the missing gaps of that conversation.

Rereading your first draft doesn’t mean undoing all that you deleted. And it definitely doesn’t mean you should read it at an open mic.

Sometimes it takes a fresh read-thru to realize that there was a gem or two not quite ready for the trashcan.

That’s where you’ll find my broken headphones.

What gems have you found in your first draft? Share your treasure find below.