Four Ways To Use Passive Voice Appropriately In Writing

The use of passive voice is often critiqued as bad writing style, which is incorrect. Though, it should be used sparingly, it shouldn’t be eliminated totally because sometimes it is essential in emphasizing details.

Passive voice is used when the subject of a sentence is the recipient of a verb. Most times, the receiver is of little or no importance to the sentence, so, why should it overshadow the subject acting? Well, this skepticism is true because the inappropriate use makes your writing vague and boring, by emphasizing things of less importance.

Notwithstanding, a passive voice can function better than an active voice in some sentences, when used the right way. Here are some ways to use the passive voice aptly.

  1. To report crimes with an alleged or unknown culprit: In some criminal cases, the perpetrator of the crime is unknown; therefore the focus should not be on an unknown person, but on whom or what was affected (the recipient of the action). 

For instance;

My neighbor was murdered last night. 

The subject (neighbor) is the receiver of the action, and the emphasis is on it. 

  • For scientific situations: When performing a scientific experiment the emphasis is not placed on the scientist experimenting, but on what the experiment entails. So, the subject matter is the things or person receiving the action.

For instance;

The Laboratory rat was used to test the efficiency of the drug. (Passive)

The scientist used the Laboratory rat to test the efficiency of the drug. (Active)

In the two sentences, how relevant is the scientist in the active sentence construction above? The use of passive voice effectively passes the message and draws attention to what is important; the Laboratory rat.

  • To emphasize the action, not the doer: In a situation where the “action” is more relevant than the initiator, a passive voice can be used.

For instance:

She was sworn in yesterday as the Director of, The World Trade Organization.

Who was performing the swearing-in was irrelevant because the emphasis is on the action, and the message is fully understood. 

  • To shift the blame on nobody: You might be wondering how this is possible, well, it is. As a writer, you can use passive voice to exonerate. You can make a character get away with a crime by detaching him from the incident or action. 

For instance;

The crime was committed yesterday.

The question posed here is; who committed the crime? Or who was involved? This statement can’t be traced to a particular person or thing. It could be who you are thinking or not. You create suspense and leave your readers to ponder.

You can easily identify a passive sentence with the presence of “to be verbs”. They include verb forms like was, were, are, etc. You can seldom write without using these verbs, howbeit, it should be used daintily or as stated in the above exceptions. To avoid errors in your writing, it is important to thoroughly proofread your work and remove any misuse of the passive voice, but if you can’t go through that process, we have a team of professional editors who can help. Contact us today at Sabi Writers.

Understanding Pronouns

A pronoun is a substitute for a noun to avoid redundancy. It serves as a reference to nouns previously mentioned in a sentence. It includes he, she, who, someone, etc. Despite being a well-known part of speech, it can be misused in a sentence. As a professional, understanding the rules of exceptions would guide you in their appropriate usage and avoid common errors. 

  1. The basic rule of pronouns states that a singular pronoun is always followed by a singular verb and a plural pronoun by a plural verb.
  2. Always put the other person first. It is incorrect to write ‘Me and my sister are going to the market’ rather than ‘My sister and I are going to the market’.
  3. An apostrophe is used with pronouns only for contraction purposes, not to show possession. For example, ‘it’s’ means ‘it is’ or ‘it has’. Therefore, when used in a sentence, it should be ‘We have reached its peak’, not ‘We have reached it’s peak’.
  4. A singular verb always follows ‘either of’, ‘neither of’, and ‘each of’, irrespective of the noun in the sentence. This is because the three pronouns refer to only one subject. For instance, it is wrong to write, ‘Each of us are writing a story’. The correct thing is ‘Each of us is writing a story’.
  5. Never use ‘they’ and ‘their’ with a singular pronoun. For instance, ‘Somebody laughed, and they should be punished’. ‘Somebody’ refers to a single person, while ‘they’ indicates plural. There is no concord between the two pronouns. Breaking this rule could make your writing unclear.

A professional writer adheres strictly to these exceptions to ensure error-free writing. However, if you do not want to go through this rigorous process, Sabi Writers provides a lasting solution. With a team of professional writers and editors only a call away, Sabi Writers will provide you with error-free work.

How To Use Literary Devices To Sustain Your Readers’ Attention

Captivating your readers’ attention is good, but how do you sustain it? What keeps them transfixed till the end? Employing literary devices is one proven way to keep your readers wondering what goes beyond the current page.

Literary devices are techniques used in creating special effects and enhancing narratives. They cut across various genres in literature and are usually confused with the figures of speech. Figures of speech are a type of literary device. 

Think for a second of how bland your narration would be without the use of dramatic irony, suspense, tragic flaws, figures of speech, flashback, etc. Literary devices give deeper meanings to sentences. They also create room for reflection and keep your readers connected to your writing.

There are many literary devices, each with its unique purpose. Let’s examine a few and how they function in a narrative.

  1. Figures of speech: Figures of speech are the most common technique. They typically do not go by their literal meanings.

‘I wanted to go out, but the sun smiled at me. I could see Mother Nature telling me to stay back’. Though the sun is lifeless, it smiled. It paints pictures in your readers’ minds. 

‘I could not go out because of the sun’.Both statements portray similar meanings, but the first used personification, a figure of speech, to create a strong mental image.

  • Dramatic irony: Creating a scene that puts your reader a step ahead of the characters is dramatic irony. It excites them to know that they have information that the characters are unaware of. In Romeo and Juliet, the reader was aware that they were both alive while the characters were clueless.
  • Flashback: When a writer takes the readers to the past, that is a flashback. It is a technique that makes your reader understand better the action or motive of a character. It gives an in-depth insight into a narrative.
  • Suspense: It is a heightened tension developed by deliberately withholding information from the readers. In contrast to dramatic irony, your reader does not have the information required to unravel mysteries in the plot. They are then eager to know what comes next.
  • Humour: Injecting an element of humour in your writing creates relief and loosens tension. It keeps your readers interested in your work.

Literary devices are an excellent way of sustaining your reader’s attention; however, they could make or mar your writing. Using them appropriately is consequential to your writing success. So always consider your style, audience, and tone before selecting and using a literary device. 

Understanding the Writing Process

As professional writers, we know that writing doesn’t just happen. It isn’t the capricious off-loading of the mind into paper. It isn’t the haphazard stringing together of words and sentences to make some preconceived point. 

In reality, writing is a process. It involves well-thought-out, articulated, and synchronised actions and decisions which result in publicly consumable content. Irrespective of how creativity reliant an art or craft is, it must under-go process.

At Sabi Writers, our writing goes through a thorough step-by-step process to guarantee maximum quality, originality, and efficiency. In this post, we’ll be sharing our writing process, the math behind the magic we do. 

The Pre-writing Stage

Every piece of literature known to man was born out of an idea. Nevertheless, the idea is only the beginning; it must first be nurtured, expanded, and developed to the point of maturity where it is translated to a written form.

This development happens in the pre-writing stage. Here, the writer sources for materials, additional information, and other specific elements that serve as building blocks with which he fleshes out the idea. 

After filling out the idea, the writer begins to structure all the information he has gathered. This involves cutting out unnecessary information, deciding which points remain, and piecing together the final picture of the content he wishes to create. 

The Drafting Stage

At this stage, the writer translates his ideas, points and notes into transitional paragraphs that help make his point clear. Here, the writer allows his creativity to run free, expressing himself through words, tone, and style. 

While drafting, the writer is not concerned with grammatical errors, spellings or other errors. Instead, he focuses on letting his creativity run free as any form of editing is premature and will obstruct his flow.  

The errors in a writer’s drafts are not proof of some failing or incompetence; it is relatively normal to have mistakes in your first, second, and third drafts. As you know, writing is a process and drafting is only a part of it. At the end of the process (that is if they are carried out correctly), the work will be in top form. 

The Revision Stage

At this stage, the writer is less concerned about expressing his creativity and more occupied with tailoring the content to match his readership and the prescribed style of writing. 

The writer will ask these questions:

Is my writing clear?

Is it concise?

Are the points expanded enough?

Do my paragraphs transition into one another?

How will the readers interpret this work? 

Is my writing informative or shallow?

Is it professionally delivered?

Is the information provided, credible?  

The Editing Stage

People often feel the revision stage and the editing stage are somewhat similar and therefore, interchangeable. This is not true. While revising is concerned with correcting structural errors, editing is taking a closer look at sentences and words to check for grammatical errors, spelling errors, repetition, punctuation, redundancy, and other minor but inexcusable writing errors.  

However, writers are advised against self-editing, as there is the tendency for a few errors to elude them. At Sabi Writers, the quality control department is there to edit and proofread as editing is not left to writers in order to ensure the highest quality.  

The Proofreading Stage 

The proofreading stage is where the final draft is reviewed to check for typographical, grammatical, and formatting errors. Proofreading ensures that the content is well written, organised, and easy to understand. Proofreading also ensures the document follows the prescribed style guide.

In summary, proofreading is just a final review of the final draft. This is the last writing process that vets the accuracy of all other processes. In traditional writing and publishing, no material should be published without being proofread.

Remember, no good literary piece comes out great without a process. The process is a sine qua non for all writing. If followed correctly, the writing processes can help to make for a professional and accurate document. 

Thank you for reading.

Conquering the Comma (2)

People hate grammar—that much is common knowledge. But what we tend to forget is that good grammar makes for good writing. For this reason, we will be continuing with our ‘Conquering the Comma’ series, highlighting more uses of the comma, while also pointing out some common comma errors.

Use the comma in a direct address.

The Chicago Manual of Style notes that ‘…a comma is used to set off names or words used in direct address and informal correspondence’.

So we have:

Wendy, how are you?

Mum, will you be home tomorrow?

Also, place the comma before the name if it appears within the sentence or at the end of it.

Are you there, Tim?

I know your brother, David.

Use the comma to set off non-essential elements in a sentence.

Non-essential elements are clauses, phrases and words whose presence or absence does not affect the general message of the sentence.

I cooked the turkey, which took me nearly thirty minutes, before moving on to the decorations.

The trader, seeking higher profit, raised the prices of all her wares.

The rule of thumb with non-essential elements is that the comma is placed before and after the non-essential part.

Use a comma to indicate where a word has been omitted.

In cases like these, the comma helps to clear up confusion while indicating the omission.

Martha has two dogs; John (has) nine.

In that sentence, omitting ‘has’ without the use of the comma obscures the message being passed across.

The sentence becomes more straightforward when written like this.

Martha has two dogs; John, nine.

Use the comma to offset negation.

For example:

I saw a cow, not a duck.

She went to the mall, not the beach.

Some common comma errors:

  1. Comma splice

A comma splice is an error that occurs when two independent clauses are joined by a comma without a coordinating conjunction. A comma splice can be fixed by adding coordinating conjunction to the comma or switching the comma with a semi-colon.

Wrong            I went to the mall, she followed me.

    Right                 I went to the mall, and she followed me

  • Using commas between correlative conjunctions

Sometimes, the comma is erroneously used between the two conjunctions in a pair.

For example:

He not only broke the record, but he also broke hers.

Although this comma usage often seems correct, it is wrong. This means the sentence above should be written as:

He not only broke the record but he also broke hers.

  • Adding a comma before ‘that’ in a clause

There’s the tendency to punctuate them alike because of the functional similarities between ‘that’ and ‘which’, which is  wrong.

Wrong             The man, that bought the car is here.

Right               The man that bought the car is here.

  • Using a comma before a verb in a relative clause

Placing a comma before the verb connecting the relative clause to the main clause breaks the flow between both clauses, which is frowned upon in standard grammar.

Wrong             One of the perks of being a mother, is having someone to love.

Right              One of the perks of being a mother is having someone to love.

  • The unnecessary comma

Sometimes, we place the comma incorrectly because of the relatable ‘I just felt there should be a comma there’ feeling. Sometimes, this hunch is right, while at other times, it is wrong.

The best way to avoid making such mistakes is by structuring your sentences with grammar rules in mind.

For example:

You either like food, or you don’t.

My dog died, because I starved it.

Both sentences are wrong because they need no comma.

Lastly, the easiest way to get the hang of comma use is by reading and writing regularly. When you see how others use the comma, you get better at using the comma. It’s that easy. Excellent comma use isn’t an impossible dream; it is easier than you think.

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