GrammarPhile Blog

Master Using the Passive Voice Effectively

Posted by Kelly Creighton   Jun 6, 2019 7:30:00 AM

Writers are typically instructed to write in the active voice because it leads to clear and engaging writing. But writing that uses the passive voice is often associated with vagueness and long-windedness. Consider and compare the following sentences:

  • The surgeon severed the young girl’s carotid artery while he was performing surgery.
  • The young girl’s carotid artery was severed during surgery. 

What differences between the two sentences do you notice—aside from the fact that one of the sentences is written in the active voice and one is written in the passive voice? Which sentence do you think is clearer or more effective? And which one would you be more likely to use or write yourself?

Although we’re often instructed to avoid the passive voice like the plague in our writing, it does have its merits when used strategically and effectively.

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Topics: passive voice, active voice

How to Cut and Polish Your Writing for Your Editor or Proofreader

Posted by Conni Eversull   May 30, 2019 7:30:00 AM

As a writer, you need to trust your editors and proofreaders, but you should still spend at least some amount of time polishing your writing before handing it over to them. Sure, this makes things somewhat easier for your proofreaders, but it also ensures clearer, better writing overall.

Do you have a clear review process that you follow before passing your work along to your proofreaders or editors? If not, here are a few things to consider if you want your writing to be the best it can be before giving it to someone else to edit.

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Topics: editing, proofreading, writing

Quiz: Can You Identify the Writing Mistake?

Posted by Phil Jamieson   May 2, 2019 7:48:41 AM

AchillesNearly everybody has an Achilles’ heel when it comes to writing…that one grammar rule you can’t remember without double-checking a grammar guide first, or that tough-to-spell word you have to check in the dictionary every time you write it (so you don’t look dumb). Some writers aren’t great with prepositions, yet they never confuse verb tenses, and other writers aren’t great with punctuation usage, but they never misspell any words, and so on. Such Achilles’ heels in writing are why writers prefer to rely on editors and proofreaders.

What’s your Achilles’ heel in writing? Take the quiz below to see if you come across it. Then be brave and share your results with the rest of us in the blog comments.  

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Topics: quiz, grammar quiz

10 Things Popular Style Guides Don't Always Agree On

Posted by Kelly Creighton   Apr 26, 2019 7:30:00 AM

We can all agree on lots of things when it comes to writing. For example, everyone knows that grammar is important, and that proper spelling makes for good readability. Capitalizing proper nouns and lowercasing most other words make things clear for your readers. And most punctuation is pretty standard. Generally, if you’re sloppy in these areas, people will just put your text down, or worse, throw it away. But there are many things editors and publishers don’t agree on, simply because they’re following different style guides. For example, a psychology researcher will follow a style guide that is very different from the style guide a marketer who is writing web copy for a business will follow. The end result is their published works can look quite different.

Style guides exist to establish a set of standards for the writing and design of written works, either for general use or for a specific publication, organization, or industry. And due to this, they don’t always have the same set of standards, as different style guides exist to address the needs of different sets of readers and writers.

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Topics: Style Guides, Popular Style Guides

QUIZ: Can You Identify and Name the Grammar Errors?

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Apr 4, 2019 7:30:00 AM

Knowing that you’ve just read a sentence or passage with a grammar error in it and being able to identify exactly what that grammar error is are two separate things. Do you think that you’re good at naming common grammar errors when you see them, using the appropriate terms?

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Topics: grammar quiz

Exploring the Structure of the Perfect Paragraph

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Mar 21, 2019 7:29:20 AM

Take a moment to consider what you learned about paragraph construction from your writing and composition course work in grade school.

Did you have to write standalone paragraphs with specific formulas and requirements about some sort of topic that you thought was mundane or boring? Were you able to write about your opinions and form arguments in standalone paragraphs? Or were you required to write paragraphs about more objective information that was provided to you beforehand? And did what you learn about writing paragraphs in high school, college, or the workplace change how you understand paragraph construction?

Now, do you think that there is a “perfect paragraph” formula? And do you think there is a one-size-fits-all paragraph structure for us all to follow?

How we construct paragraphs has a lot to do with how and what we were taught in the past, as well as what we read, write, or edit on a regular basis. Keep reading to see if what you understand about constructing paragraphs coincides with your training, learning experiences, and everyday reading, writing, or editing experiences.

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Topics: paragraph, paragraph construction

Should Writers and Editors Practice Grammar?

Posted by Kelly Creighton   Mar 15, 2019 7:30:00 AM

“Language, never forget, is more fashion than science, and matters of usage, spelling and pronunciation tend to wander around like hemlines.”

― Bill Bryson, The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way

What do you think? Do writers and editors need to continually practice grammar rules and language traditions as they are used by others? Or do you think that they should dictate the grammar rules and traditions that others use? Or do you perhaps think they should do a little bit of both?

Language is not static and is always changing; this much is certain. Remember when “LOL” wasn’t in the dictionary? Punctuation usage and grammar rules have also changed over time, especially in this era of social media, electronic communications, grammar-checking software, and artificial intelligence.

Perhaps editors and writers should abide by grammar rules and dictate those rules as if they were lexicographers. Lexicographers add words to the dictionary when those words have widespread, sustained, and meaningful use. Or is this what writers and editors already do? Do writers and editors already add or adjust grammar rules in style guides and similar resources when those rules change over time and exhibit widespread, sustained, and meaningful use?

So, what should writers and editors do to practice grammar rules that change over time? How about the following?

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Topics: trends in language

What Makes a Writer "Great"?

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Mar 8, 2019 7:30:00 AM

Some people might argue that a “great” writer is someone who sells a lot of books or writes a lot of articles that are published in renowned magazines and publications. Or perhaps a great writer is someone who has a prominent and well-known social media account, or someone who writes about controversial topics and gets a lot of media attention, or someone whose writing is dubbed “classic” in the current literary canon.

You get the picture being painted here. There are a lot of ways one could identify or classify a “great” writer. But are those ways fool-proof, logical, or all-encompassing? It does seem each writer has his or her own specialty and strengths. So, do “great” writers have similar qualities or characteristics?

When you’re asked to provide an example of someone who is a great writer, who do you think of immediately? J. K. Rowling? Tom Clancy? Stephen King? Shakespeare? Robert Frost? Margaret Atwood? George Orwell? Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings? Ayn Rand? Mark Twain? Jack Kerouac? And if you were asked what you think makes him or her “great,” how would you respond?

Writers who are “great,” or at the very least are more widely known, do seem to have certain common characteristics, as listed below. Do you agree?

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Topics: writers

10 Things That Are Strange to Non-Native English Speakers

Posted by Kelly Creighton   Feb 28, 2019 7:30:00 AM

Here are ten things that can seem strange to non-native English speakers.

1. Questions and Answers With Both Affirming and Negating Terms

Native English speakers say things like, “You want to eat that, don’t you?” and “No, that’s okay” all the time. This can be confusing to non-native English speakers because they don’t understand whether the person saying things like this wants something or will do something, or not.

2. The Rule: “i” Before “e” Except After “C”

As native English speakers know, there are exceptions to nearly every grammar rule, especially this one. The letter “i” doesn’t always come before the letter “e” except when it’s placed after the letter “c” in a word. For example, the words “science,” “efficient,” and “beige” are exceptions to this rule.

3. Telling Time

In other languages, or even various dialects of English, people would say “it is half past two” or “it is half of three” when telling time. They would not say “It is 2:30.”

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What Kind of Training Should Pro Editors and Proofreaders Have?

Posted by Kelly Creighton   Feb 21, 2019 7:30:00 AM

Editors and proofreaders require a lot of training. And while they both have different professional responsibilitiesthe training they require is similar and often overlaps.

What kind of training do you think professional editors and proofreaders should have? What would you add to or remove from the list below?

Bachelor’s Degree

Usually editors and proofreaders have a four-year degree in English, journalism, or communications from an accredited college or university. This indicates that an individual has some mastery over the English language and that he or she is comfortable with writing and evaluating various types of written text. They tend to have advanced knowledge of English grammar, language, composition, etc.

Sometimes extensive experience in editing or proofreading can substitute for the four-year degree. But this is, of course, at the discretion of the employer.

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Topics: skills needed for proofreading, professional proofreader

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