Better Writing: Avoiding Passive Voice

It is a good idea for freelance writers to avoid passive voice. Writers should not think that using passive voice is a grammatical error, but using active voice makes for better writing most of the time.

What is passive voice?

Passive voice is the phrase used to describe sentences in which the subject receives the action of the verb rather than the subject performing the action. For example:

The man was slapped by the woman.

That same sentence written in active voice would read:

The woman slapped the man.

Another example of passive voice is in a sentence where there is no specific subject performing the action.

eg. Research was conducted.

What is wrong with writing in passive voice?

Writing in passive voice is considered a stylistic “don’t.” While it is not necessarily a grammatical error, passive voice can sound awkward, leave out important details, and reduce the authority of a sentence.

Consider the following.

How can I avoid writing in passive voice?

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Life as your Writing Muse

There is writing material in everyday if you look for it. Sometimes writing ideas can come to you when you are not looking for them. We should embrace the muse that life is, and write in whatever genre suits our personal expression.

If you are struggling with writers block or have trouble coming up with story ideas or topics to write about, examine your life. What is happening to you mentally, emotionally or physically? What is going on in your friends or family’s lives?

Writers who don’t find these sources inspirational, which is probably rare, can take to observation. Go out to a park, the mall, a parking lot, a restaurant, club, school campus, or anywhere there are people. There is nothing easier than making instant judgment calls about someone’s personality based on how they look or sound. Pay really close attention to the things that people are talking about, wearing, buying, carrying, or where they are going. Use all of this information to springboard ideas from. Feel free to make incredible assumptions about them since they have no idea that you are writing about them.

Animal lovers can gain inspiration from observation as well. The most basic of animal behavior can translate into human behavior. Run with the ideas.

How to Write an Effective Outline

Yesterday, I wrote about the benefits of using outlines as a freelance writer. Here are some tips on writing an effective outline:

-Take the time to do some preliminary research before you write the outline.

-Give your outline three major sections: Introduction, Body, and Conclusion.

-Create a thesis or a descriptive statement explaining the central point or purpose of the piece to head your outline. (Part of the introduction)

-Start by listing all of your general points and then add specific details that explain each point. (Body)

-List your major points in the order that you will write about them. If you are making an argument, use your strongest points first. You make be able to follow your topic chronologically; if so, start from the beginning and move forward. (Body)

-You can use short phrases or words lists (a topic outline) or express your main points in sentence form (a sentence outline).

-You may not have a conclusion at the beginning when your outline is first written. If your research is not concluded, speculate about what your conclusion might be and write it down. Remember that it is best to not to use brand new information at the very end of your writing. It is better to incorporate your major points already mentioned into a final thought.

-Make use of your outline during the writing process. It can be especially helpful in keeping you on topic, or reminding your of your original thoughts in case you get stuck. At the same time, don’t be afraid to deviate from your outline if you stronger points, or if the focus that you chose did not work out.

Using Outlines in Freelance Writing

Most people can recall writing papers for school. At one point or another, a teacher required an outline of a paper that you were (supposedly) planning to write. While many students feel as if writing an outline is a waste of time, freelance writers can benefit from such an activity.

Whether your project requires that you write an article, ebook, or webpage, having an outline can improve the first draft before you begin. It can also help writers to focus on the subject and keep the content relevant and cohesive with the main purpose of the work.

Another benefit to creating an outline for your writing projects is that it can impress clients. I like to provide an outline of my writing plans at the beginning of longer assignments (like ebooks) so that the client can look it over. First of all, this lets them know that I have begun thinking seriously about the project. Secondly, it indicates that I am organized. This also presents the opportunity for them to make suggestions or changes according to their preferences. Creating outlines simple makes the entire process easier for all involved.

Being a “Professional” Freelance Writer

Here are the six characteristics of a true professional:
1. A professional is courteous. A true professional may disagree with you, but they will never be rude to you. They will maintain their composure and always speak politely.
2. A professional is reliable. When you engage a true professional to do your work, you can count on the fact that it will be done. A professional takes their work seriously and will not abandon work or a client.
3. A professional is respectful. A true professional listens attentively to your suggestions and ideas. They will inform you if they thing you should do something differently, but they will not belittle or insult you.
4. A professional is honest. With a true professional, you know what you are getting. Their word is good, and they will honestly report all of their actions.
5. A professional is responsible. A true professional will acknowledge and take responsibility for their actions — even they occasionally make mistakes.
6. A professional is competent. A professional knows how to get the job done and is up-to-date with the most recent developments in his or her field.

I absolutely loved Wednesday’s article on Freelance Folder. It talked about what it means to be professional, and I totally agree with what they had to say:

“Here are the six characteristics of a true professional:

1. A professional is courteous. A true professional may disagree with you, but they will never be rude to you. They will maintain their composure and always speak politely.

2. A professional is reliable. When you engage a true professional to do your work, you can count on the fact that it will be done. A professional takes their work seriously and will not abandon work or a client.

3. A professional is respectful. A true professional listens attentively to your suggestions and ideas. They will inform you if they thing you should do something differently, but they will not belittle or insult you.

4. A professional is honest. With a true professional, you know what you are getting. Their word is good, and they will honestly report all of their actions.

5. A professional is responsible. A true professional will acknowledge and take responsibility for their actions — even they occasionally make mistakes.

6. A professional is competent. A professional knows how to get the job done and is up-to-date with the most recent developments in his or her field.”

What does professionalism look like to you?

Loneliness and Freelance Writing

It is important to connect with other people on a regular basis, and that can be difficult to arrange when your face is staring at the computer screen on a daily basis. Freelance writing doesn’t come with coworkers, so it can get very lonely if you don’t make time for live human interaction.

Social media can be helpful at times when you are pushing to meet a deadline and need a break. This can only go so far, however, because people need live connections with other people. It is simply human nature.

Having lunch (dinner or breakfast) with a friend once or twice a week is a great way to fit in time with another human being.

Other ways that you can meet your needs for contact with other individuals include:

-working out with a partner

-joining a local writer’s group

-volunteer in the community

-teach or take a class

-bring your work to a café or bookstore (and talk to people)

-go to local events

-meet up with a group of friends for a weekly game night

Whatever you like to do, besides writing, can most likely be turned into an opportunity for you to connect with other people and combat the loneliness of the business. Be creative.

Defending Your Copyright

Have you ever had your writing stolen? With the internet copyright infringement and plagiarism have become easier and more prevalent. It is important to know what to do in case someone violates usage rights for you work, or simply steals your content. I read an extremely helpful article on WOW (Women on Writing) by Moira Allen titled “Someone Stole My Article! What To Do When It Happens To You

You can read all about copyright infringement and remedies on the US government website under Copyright Law Chapter 5. I encourage you to familiarize yourself with your rights and the proper actions to take if someone steals your work. Protect yourself!

Someone Stole My Article! What To Do When It
Happens To You

Writing Rituals

Many writers, if not all, have some sort of ritual. There is something that each writer will routinely do before they actually get started writing. This can be a very good thing, because people are creatures of habit. A writing ritual can get you into the proper mindset to get some work done. Everyone has something a little different that works for them, so my tip is to make one up, if you don’t have one already, or perhaps take notice of what you usually do before you can really get into writing. You may have a ritual, and you don’t know it.

My writing ritual goes like this: I check my email accounts, Facebook, Twitter, and blog stats. I will respond to important emails and plan out what needs to be done that day. I set up the files that I need or tab the websites that I am going to use, then I close my laptop. This is when I eat breakfast, exercise, shower, and tidy up. I cannot write unless I am fed, energized and organized. Once I get back to my computer, I check my messages again, look over my to do list, and get started.

What is your writing ritual like?

Better Writing: Write Less

I know. When I offer advice on how to write better, it usually includes writing more and not less. What I mean to say is write concisely. If you can write a good article, you should know how to write a powerful paragraph. When you limit your word count, it forces you to choose your words even more carefully. The art of being concise is to say as much as you can with as few words as possible.

Editing is a major factor in concise writing. You may have to go back three or four times before you are able to come up with just the right way to say a particular thing. It can be difficult to chop down your words to the bare bones, but it will make you a better writer.

Twitter is a great website for practicing concise writing.

Here are my tips for concise writing:

-make your point immediately

-don’t repeat the point

-avoid modifiers like really, very, totally

-use the dictionary and thesaurus to improve vocabulary

-replace long phrases with inclusive words

-avoid empty, general openings and closings

-cut, cut, cut

Do you have any concise writing tips? I’d love to see them. Share in comments.

10,000 words in one day

I just heard about a challenge coming up this week for writers. The challenge is to write 10,000 words in one day. This is a single day out of every month to sit down and just write all day, and this month it is on the 16th. Milli Thorton, author of Fear of Writing: for writers & closet writers presented this challenge on her blog. You can read the rules of the challenge here.

She explains, “The purpose of a 10K Day is to try to write 10,000 words. The spirit of a 10K Day is to liberate myself and celebrate my creativity.”

It sounds like a lot of fun, and I would like to encourage everyone to participate. I am going to try to do this as well, schedule permitting. This is something that I would definitely do every month. I am really excited for the challenge and I hope that you are, too.

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