Passive voice in college essays

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Passive voice in college essays

Janine Robinson, my go-to-person for the best college-essay tips, writes regularly on this topic at her blog — Essay Hel l.

Tools for Writing: 10 Guidelines for Better Writing - Aims Community College

See if something happened. And to find a good story, you usually need to find a problem to share. If you shared a problem, you most likely relayed something that happened. That is all good stuff!

If your essay starts by relating something that happened, the reader is going to dive right into it and not stop until they are satisfied—until they know what happened. What is an example of something that happened? A girl wrestled a store mannequin into skinny jeans while changing the window display and the arms fell off.

A boy hoisted himself up in a tree, but tied the knot wrong and got stuck. A boy pronounced words in his native German accent and got laughed at by classmates who thought he was dumb. A girl got separated from her parents while visiting Rome.

A girl made her bed every night before climbing in for the night. A boy dragged home a discarded trampoline by the side of the road. A boy sang a rock song while lying injured on a gurney in the ER. A boy waiting tables mixed up an order and ended up picking up the entire bill for the family.

A boy loves nothing more than sitting with his mom and sister and watching soap operas together.

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They started with something that happened, and then shared how it made them feel, how they handled it and what they learned. The thoughts, insights, explanations and commentary are what reveal your values, passions, fears, goals and dreams in your essay. Another way to check your essay to see if anything happened is to make sure you used a large handful of strong action verbs.

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Choose active voice, not passive voice Avoid clichés “Show, don’t tell” is vital to writing an engaging essay, and this is the point students struggle with most. Because passive voice sentences necessarily add words and change the normal doer-action-receiver of action direction, they may make the reader work harder to understand the intended meaning.

As the examples below illustrate, a sentence in active voice flows more smoothly and is easier to understand than the same sentence in passive voice.

Passive voice in college essays

But when I edit college essays, or anything else, I follow these principles: I point out errors, elements that are difficult to understand, structural problems, and weak ideas. I suggest ways to rewrite problematic phrasing like passive voice and the excessive use of over-the-top adjectives.

I don’t change the tone. (In the Times piece.

Clues To The Passive In most writing, active voice is preferred. In active voice, the subject performs the action.

The Passive Voice (and How to Avoid It) by Professor Jay Dickson. A verb is in the active voice when it expresses an action the subject performs. PASSIVE: The town was decimated by the earthquake.

In active voice, the sentence emphasizes the earthquake as the actor. Rephrasing also removes superfluous words. ACTIVE: The earthquake decimated the town. Passive voice can also make your statements vague, which causes them to have less impact: PASSIVE: Mistakes were made.

A Writing Guide for College Essays | Fastweb