Hi there, grammar-loving friends!
I’m sorry for taking such a long break from my blog and website; it’s been a super busy year. I moved, found a rewarding full-time job, adopted a wonderful cat named Topher, and ended up with a constantly full plate seemingly overnight.
But, I’m back! And, excited to put some focus into my grammar blog. So, stay tuned! In the meantime, I’d like to share a tip that’s appropriate for this time of year…
Remember that if you use active voice (versus passive voice) in your writing, you’re more likely to be clear on your intent and come across as a strong, competent writer. But, how can you tell when you’re using one versus the other?
That’s right. Those scary (for most of us) undead creatures so prevalent at this time of year. If you add the phrase “by zombies” to the end of your sentence and the sentence still makes sense, you’re using passive voice. For example:
- Passive voice: “This weekend, the kids were dressed in Halloween costumes.”
- Passive voice test: “This weekend, the kids were dressed in Halloween costumes by zombies.”
- Active voice rewrite: “The kids dressed up in Halloween costumes this weekend.”
See what I mean? The zombies totally could have dressed the kids in the passive voice example! And, wouldn’t that be seriously awkward ;-).
A grad school classmate shared this tip with me and it’s always stuck. I hope it works for you, too! Or at least brings a smile to your face. If that doesn’t, below is a little zombie nostalgia in the form of the trailer for my favorite zombie movie, 28 Days Later. Enjoy!
As an editor, this is the #1 question I get. Is it OK to use split infinitives?
Lots of sources provide conflicting opinions. Many, like Oxford English Dictionary’s Language Matters, say “yes.” But, I say “no.”
Sure, split infinitives have become a part of American English convention. But, that does not mean using them is correct or the best way to get your point across.
A split infinitive occurs when an adverb is inserted between “to” and the verb. On its page on split infinitives, Oxford English Dictionary’s Language Matters gives the following example:
#1 You have to really watch him.
Oxford then explains that the grammatically correct structure of this sentence is:
#2 You really have to watch him.
However, as Oxford explains, the two sentences have different meanings, with sentence 1 emphasizing a need to focus on him and sentence 2 emphasizing the urgency of watching. Oxford likens sentence 2 to #3 “You have to watch him very closely.”
So, I ask, why not just use sentence #3? Not only is it grammatically correct, but it more clearly conveys the emphasis of the sentence. See? Split infinitives are not necessary.
When you find yourself leaning toward using one, write and rewrite until you get it right. And, never use one again!
I’m not sure about all of you, but I’ve been a huge “Weird Al” Yankovic fan for years. His newest singles have been released in the past few days, and they’re better than some of the parodies he’s written in years. One new single deserved its own blog post: Word Crimes. It is a bit crude, as we’ve come to expect from “Weird Al,” but it’s so funny. In addition to poking fun at people who intentionally make poor word and spelling choices, there are a few grammar lessons thrown in in cleaver ways. Enjoy!
(Photo taken from the Grammarly Facebook Page)
One of my past editing instructors loved giving us grammar lessons about pronoun usage and why placement matters, so this issue has been drilled into my brain! I saw this on Facebook today and thought it was a great example.
Technically, Amanda has the problem because pronouns refer to the closest preceding noun, no matter what type of noun it is. But, I would bet most people would answer the question in this meme as Elizabeth having the problem. I guess we’ll never know. This is why being clear and using proper grammar is so important!
Oh, and the best snarky answer from the Facebook comments? “The reader.” 🙂
P.S., Grammerly is one of my favorite go-to sites for all things grammar. See their updated website at https://www.grammarly.com/.