As writers, we naturally write the way we write naturally. But readers can’t hear the cadence of the words playing out in our heads as our fingers fly across the keys. Readers’ minds merely decipher the little black marks on the page or the pixels on the screen. So “Mom was calling every week; Dad was emailing every day” cannot possibly convey the sense of urgency the author wants to impart because the reader can’t feel it—it’s over, it’s way in the past, it’s a “was.” It’s passive.
Ah, but suppose the line read: “Mom called every week; Dad emailed every day,” with no extra “it’s all over” verb standing between the doer and the deed? Now the reader feels the author’s irritation and can sympathize, snicker, or simply roll their eyes. It’s active.
And “static writing is …?” I hear you ask. Extra words, albeit not necessarily “to be” verbs, that stretch out the sentence or obfuscate its meaning. “I extracted a sample of both of their DNA from the inside of their mouths.”
The line is static: it has no life, it has no energy, it just relays flat, lifeless information. Maybe that’s okay for a textbook or dissertation, but for commercial writing? Ugh.
But suppose the line read: “I extracted DNA samples from inside both their mouths.” Doesn’t that sing a little sweeter? It provides the same information without holding the reader hostage for an extra six words and so pumps the material forward. It’s active.
And that, in 200 little words, is what the passive voice/static voice fuss is all about!
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