Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Like the clouds of death that follow me into the Forest of Doom… And hide in the wardrobe of darkness!

Lil Sis has had me edit her papers since she started middle school. Now, in her third year of college, she still sends me her papers, usually with a "make me sound like an adult" request.

I don't mind doing this, I really don't. What I DO mind is Lil Sis's continuous disregard of my advice for making her future papers sound better.

....I admit that I occasionally get impatient and lose my temper.

I should have been an English teacher. 
More than anything else, Lil Sis continues to ignore my teachings regarding the passive voice.

Passive aggression is obnoxious. It can be just as obnoxious in grammar. I have tried explaining this to Lil Sis over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over, but she pretends she doesn't understand what I try to teach her.

In high school, we had this English teacher we all despised because of her Passive Voice Policy. Basically, if you used more than 8 "to be" verbs* on a page, she wouldn't even grade your paper--she would hand it back with big red letters across the top saying REJECTED, and you would have to rewrite the whole thing if you wanted a passing grade. By the end of the year, we all wanted her dead.

This is the single greatest piece of writing instruction I have ever received.

We need to use "to be" verbs sometimes, but overuse of the passive voice negatively impacts the overall quality of one's writing. In my first edit of all my fiction projects, I go through the whole thing and try to replace any "to be" verbs I find with the active voice. I don't bother doing that here because I'm lazy.

Lil Bro#1 graduates from college this weekend. He goes to Houghton University, which is literally in the middle of freaking nowhere. The only places to stay nearby are tiny little inns or B&B's with only 6 rooms each. So we're staying at a campsite. 

When Dad informed me that he planned to squeeze 10 of us into one of these, I went out and purchased a tent. It's super fun, you just throw it on the ground and it pops up fully assembled.

*am, is, are, was, were, be, become, etc. So instead of saying "I was drinking the entire bottle of whiskey," you could say, "I drank the entire bottle of whiskey."


  1. Well, obviously, "to be or not to be." Being or not being? I have to consider this. I am an English major (English is my third language) and I don't think I've ever heard the "to be" issue, but it makes good sense.

  2. Ha, ha, I still remember those "to be" verbs and the havoc they wrecked on HS teachers and college professors. Loving this, Mich. Have fun in your tent!

  3. have, has had, do, does, did, shall, will, should, would, may, might, must, can, could

    *random elementary school chant list popped into my head*

    I don't know what has brought you back to the neighborhood, but it's good to see more of you :)

  4. "Every time you end a sentence in a preposition, God kills a puppy" i really have to watch my grammar! I admit I've had trouble retaining the basics of sentence structure, parts of speech, "to be" verbs, etc...I trust my instincts, and I think I have a good understanding of what sounds/looks correct, even if I can't always identify why.

    Also, I agree that you should be an English teacher (middle grade perhaps?) and if you're speaking of your blog when you say that "I don't bother doing that here because I'm lazy." I think blogging is an informal medium and that unless your posts are loaded with typos and sound completely incoherent you don't need to strictly adhere to any rules of grammar. I play around with words, type in incomplete sentences, sarcastically say incorrect things (Cara Delevigne is not three words) and use ellipses...a lot...

    Have fun at your campsite! That pop-up tent looks like fun...the guys in the gif are reacting to it like it's the most amazing thing they've ever seen.

  5. I had a teacher like that in high school - would reject papers that used so much passive voice. It did work! I also like your examples. Maybe you should teach... but it's totally up to you. Of course, you could be an editor. :)

    I found you through Susie's (Peaked In Junior High) blog. I am loving your blog so far.

  6. I'm supposedly a professional writer - at least, I keep receiving checks from editors - but passive voice still confuses the hell out of me.

  7. I can't believe your sister is in third year already! Just the other day she was sixteen and full of beans! They grow up so fast! Best of luck with the camping, a popup tent is a brilliant idea! Hope you all fit!

    P.S. Your dad's a bit ambitious with that motor home, hey?! Bless him! ;)

  8. I don't get as fired up over prepositions and passive voice, but I do hate when someone asks me to help them with a problem, and I keep helping them over and over, and they just never learn... but they still keep coming to me. In other words, they only want me to fix it, not to teach them how they can fix it on their own.

  9. I seem to have trouble with passive voice....maybe I need help......


We say whatever we want to whomever we want, at all times.