A BASIC REVIEW OF GRAMMAR, PUNCTUATION, AND STYLE
 
Active Voice and Passive Voice
Apostrophes and Possession
Comma Splices, also known as Fused Sentences
Comma Use: Six Major Functions
Parallel Structure
Using Verbs as Verbs
Using Specific, Concrete Language
Editing Resources



ACTIVE VOICE --or-- WHO DOES WHAT?

"Active voice" refers to a verb form that makes the subject--or actor--of the sentence very clear.  If you can explain who does what (in that order), your sentence probably uses active voice.  Look at this example:

In other words, active voice makes clear who performs the action of the sentence. Ordinarily, active voice sentences give you a stronger, more forceful style. To use the active voice, you generally want to do two things:
  1. Put the actor first
  2. Avoid forms of the verb to be (am, is, are, was, were, been), especially when they are used in combination with other verbs.
PASSIVE VOICE --or-- WHAT IS DONE (BY WHOM)

In contrast to active voice, passive voice hides the actor--the person or thing who performs the action--by either placing the actor at the end of the sentence or by leaving the actor out altogether.  Look at these examples:

REVISING FOR ACTIVE VOICE:

To change a sentence from passive to active voice, try asking yourself:  Who did (or does) what?

As you answer the question, you will probably find yourself using active voice.

 




APOSTROPHES & POSSESSION

When to add -'s

When to add only an apostrophe: SPECIAL CASE: ITS versus IT'S

With apostrophe = it is

ITS (no apostrophe) signals possession.

COMMA SPLICES (also known as "FUSED" SENTENCES)

As Diana Hacker points out in her handbook, a lot of people over-use commas. For instance, many writers join two sentences with a comma instead of a period or a semi-colon. This often happens when the writer wants to show that two ideas are related. Once you know how to look for trouble spots, this problem, usually called a "comma splice," is easy to correct.
 

  
  • also 
  • in addition 
  • now
  • as a result 
  • in fact 
  • of course
  • still
  • for example 
  • moreover 
  • besides 
  • in other words 
  • on the other hand
  • consequently 
  • in the first place 
  • otherwise
  • finally 
  • meanwhile 
  • then
  • for instance 
  • nevertheless 
  • therefore
  • furthermore 
  • next 
  • thus
  • however
  


REVIEWING SIX MAJOR USES OF THE COMMA
 



PARALLEL STRUCTURE

If you say two lines are parallel, you generally mean that they run in the same direction. They are an equal distance apart at every point.

If you say that two sentences are parallel, you generally mean that they follow the same syntactic pattern. Single words are balanced with single words, phrases with phrases, clauses with clauses. Words or phrases "line up" at specific points.
  Symmetrical form is essential for effective writing--partly because it is a way to organize and structure ideas. When ideas appear together for a specific purpose, they should each be presented in a similar (or parallel) manner.
  If one idea is presented differently from the others, it weakens the emphasis given to each phrase in the series. The inconsistency may also distract the reader's attention away from the message.


USE VERBS AS VERBS:

To make your words more simple and direct, avoid turning verbs into nouns (also known as "nominalizations").

You can often spot nominalizations by looking for words that end in -ion,  -ment, -al. ("Nominalization" is one example.)

EXAMPLES:

The first column lists some verbs masquerading as nouns. The second column gives the real verbs.

 
nominalization ---> 
approval ----> 
failure ----> 
evaluation ----> 
refusal ----> 
discussion ---> 
investigation ---> 
discovery ----> 
expectation ----> 
 nominalize 
 approve 
 fail 
evaluate 
refuse 
discuss 
 investigate 
discover 
 expect 



USING SPECIFIC, CONCRETE LANGUAGE

Although there's nothing wrong with a rich vocabulary, most writing aims for clarity. With clarity in mind, avoid abstract words and phrases. In general, choose simple, down-to-earth language.
 
FROM INFLATED ---> 
Currently ---> 
Initiate -----> 
Indicate ----> 
Finalize ----> 
Expedite ---> 
Utilize ------->
Position ----->

FROM JARGON --------> 
Implement ------------> Viable ----------------> Interact --------------> 
Optimum ------------> 
To impact ------------> Resultful -------------> 
Meaningful -----------> 
Judgmentally ---------> 
Input -----------------> Output ---------------> Sub-optimal ----------> Proactive -------------> Parameters/perimeter-> 
TO SIMPLE 
 Now 
 Start 
 Show 
 Finish 
 Speed up, move along 
 Use 
 Place 

TO CLEAR PROSE 
 Carry out 
Practical, workable 
Discuss, meet, work with 
 Best, largest possible 
 To affect, to do to 
Effective, achieve results 
Real, actual, tangible 
 I think 
 Facts, information, data 
Results 
 Less than ideal 
Active 
Limits 
The problem with jargon or inflated diction becomes clear when you read a whole cluster of these words and phrases. Here's an example:

How would you simplify the statement?




EDITING HELP

For additional help on style and editing, please see: