Passive VoicePatrol On guard against wordy news writing.By Holly Edgell
First, a word about News Writing in generalWriting for the web tends to mirror newspaper-style writing, which can feel like a fight to the finish; i.e. turgid, wordy, abstract, and “over-written.” My argument is that writing across ALL platforms: Should be crisp, compelling, and clear Should “speak” to the viewer Should be active but not overblown
So what is the Passive Voice? Passive Voice puts the ACTOR or SUBJECT after the verb E.g. The hat was eaten by the cat. Here the CAT is the ACTOR/SUBJECT and the HAT is the object Not to be confused with TENSE: present, past and future E.g. The cat was clawing at the sofa This is an ACTIVE sentence, because the CAT as ACTOR/SUBJECT appears before the verb.
Spot the Passive Voice!INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) -- A woman who faked the birth of sextuplets was arrested Monday in Independence on outstanding warrants.Forty- six-year-old Sarah Everson and her 35-year-old husband, Kris, were living in the Kansas City suburb of Grain Valley in March 2006 when they concocted the story to tap the generosity of neighbors. They were sentenced in August 2006 to four years probation and ordered to pay $3,661 in restitution. But warrants for the couple were issued after they missed restitution payments and several probation violation hearings. Kris Everson was sentenced last week to three years in prison for violating probation. Sarah Everson had been scheduled to appear in Jackson County Court as recently as Monday morning but missed the bond forfeiture hearing.
Here’s how I would write this storyIndependence police arrested a woman who faked the birth of sextuplets on outstanding warrants.Forty-six-year-old Sarah Everson and her 35-year-old husband, Kris, were living in the Kansas City suburb of Grain Valley in March 2006 when they concocted the story to tap the generosity of neighbors. In August 2006 a judge sentenced the couple to four years probation and ordered the pair to pay $3,661 in restitution. But after they missed restitution payments and several probation violation hearings warrants went out for the couple. Last week a judge sentenced Kris Everson Kris Everson to three years in prison for violating probation. Sarah Everson was supposed to appear in Jackson County Court this morning but missed the bond forfeiture hearing.
Here’s Another One:A 16-year-old is the latest to be charged in the slaying of a southern Missouri teenager teen who was beaten to death during a brawl at a park in June. Nathan Gibbs is charged with first-degree murder and three counts of felony armed criminal action. He is accused of taking part in a fight in a Lebanon park that killed 17-year-old Zack Jones and injured another teen, Matthew Bankston. Gibbs was 15 at the time but was certified as an adult Tuesday. Gibbs mother -- Kimberly Dunkin -- also is charged with first- degree murder and felony armed criminal action. Her trial is to begin on April 7th.
And my version:A 16-year-old is the latest TO FACE CHARGES in the slaying of a southern Missouri teenager teen.SOMEONE BEAT THE TEEN to death during a brawl at a park in June.Nathan Gibbs IS FACING ONE CHARGE OF first-degree murder and three counts of felony armed criminal action. POLICE SAY HE TOOK part in a fight in a Lebanon park that killed 17-year-old Zack Jones and injured another teen, Matthew Bankston. Gibbs was 15 at the time but A COURT CERTIFIED HIM as an adult Tuesday. Gibbs mother -- Kimberly Dunkin -- IS ALSO FACING CHARGES OF first-degree murder and felony armed criminal action. Her trial is to begin on April 7th.
More examples:UGH: The government plan could help as many as 300,000 families that are delinquent, and the costs would ultimately be picked up by taxpayers.BETTER:THE GOVERNMENT PLAN COULD HELP AS MANY AS 300- THOUSAND FAMILIES THAT ARE DELINQUENT, AND TAXPAYERS WOULD PICK UP THE TAB.
And there’s more…SAY WHAT? Miriam Makeba, the South African singer whose voice stirred hopes of freedom among millions in her country with music that was banned by the apartheid authorities she struggled against, died overnight after performing at a concert in Italy on Sunday. She was 76.BETTERHER VOICE STIRRED HOPES OF FREEDOM FOR MILLIONS IN HER COUNTRY. ON SUNDAY SOUTH AFRICAN SINGER MIRIAM MAKEBA DIED AGE 76, AFTER A CONCERT IN ITALY. DURING APARTHEID, SOUTH AFRICAN AUTHORITIES BANNED HER MUSIC.
Not done yet!BEFORECHEAP TOY JEWELRY CAN BE FOUND IN VARIOUS VENDING MACHINES IN MID-MISSOURI. SOME OF THIS JEWELRY HAS BEEN RECALLED BY AT LEAST 4 COMPANIES, DUE TO LEAD CONTENTS. LEAD POISONING IN CHILDREN CAN AFFECT THEIR LEARNING ABILITIES AND IN EXTREME CASES, CAUSE DEATH WHEN SWALLOWED. BUT SOME PARENTS ARE HEARING THIS FOR THE FIRST TIME THE RECALLED JEWELRY HAS BEEN REMOVED FROM MOST PLACES, AND THE COMPANIES HAVE STOPPED DISTRIBUTING THE ITEMS.
Almost there..AFTER YOU CAN FIND CHEAP TOY JEWELRYIN VENDING MACHINES AROUND MID-MISSOURI. FOUR COMPANIES HAVE RECALLED AT LEAST SOME OF THIS JEWELRY BECAUSE IT CONTAINS LEAD.LEAD POISONING IN CHILDREN CAN AFFECT LEARNING. AND SWALLOWING LEAD CAN BE FATAL FOR SOME KIDS, SOMETHING MANY PARENTS MAY NOT KNOW. MOST VENDING MACHINES NO LONGER CARRY THE RECALLED JEWELRY.
The Last Word There may be cases for using passive voice in news writing, but often we employ it because it seems easier and quicker than taking a moment or two to rethink the sentence or finding out who or what the ACTOR/SUBJECT actually is. Happy writing!
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