Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Carol Preaches Active Voice

Carol busily signing bookss
If you want to go on a roller coaster ride and learn something at the same time Carol Baxter is the girl for you. A very lively presenter, Carol , who spoke at a hundred miles a minute, extolled the virtues of using active voice when "Writing Interesting Family Histories".

Around 40 people listened intently as the energetic Carol offered writing tips at Ku-ring-gai Historical Society's Family  History Group event yesterday. At $5 per head, including morning tea this event that was open to the public was great value.  Those who were cashed up could also purchase a copy of  Carol's book, "Writing Interesting Family Histories"  for $20. However, having read the book last night, I do not think it adds much to the copious notes I took in Carol's fast-paced talk.

The book would be a worthwhile purchase for anyone who cannot attend one of Carol's talks but her enthusiasm, personality, rich vocabulary and digressions from her printed notes made this a very enjoyable learning activity.

Among the things I must remember before I set fingers on the keyboard are to :

  • Release my grip on old habits and release my creative writing spirit (if I can find one)
  • Remember that facts are critically important 
  • Use evocative language
  • Realise that dates are not absolute! They are relative to the calendar being used at time
  • Select a structure and stick to it
  • Communicate perspective through careful choice of words
  • Remember Oomph in writing is carried by verbs
  • Use active rather than passive voice - make the doer do it 
  • Ground my writing in historical context
  • Grab my readers with my first sentence
  • Think about what my ancestors saw, heard, felt, smelled, tasted, and emotionally experienced 
  • Recraft my writing over and over and over


Greta Koehl said...

Oh, I hate to make a negative comment, but - I strongly disagree about the passive voice. Passive is derived from the active and should not be as common, but it is legitimate and has valid uses. Moreover, as a translator of many years, I have seen many translations mangled because people slavishly followed this "rule." The passive voice has a stylistic role to play in literature (sometimes you want an impersonal form - something is done to someone or something, but you don't want to name the actors) and it helps to maintain the theme-rheme narrative flow. Some examples:

Rome wasn't built in a day.

He was thrown from his motorcycle while traveling at high speed.

Greta Koehl said...
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GeniAus said...


That's not a negative comment.

It's an opinion and a valid one at that. I am always thrilled when someone makes a comment on my blog. Thanks for taking the time to post your thoughts.

Greta Koehl said...

And now I am going to post an apology for my comment having shown up five times! Honestly, I only pushed the button once - but it did take about a minute and half to post it. BTW, I love your blog and promise to comment on something that doesn't make me sound like the grammar police!


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