The Power of Positivity in Our Writing

We’ve all likely heard the saying, “positivity breeds positivity.” And many of us have probably witnessed evidence of its truth in our own lives.  

But positivity does much more than just spreading positive thoughts. In fact, a study done by Harvard Business Review found that people with positive outlooks are overall more successful (and happy) than their pessimistic counterparts.

But what does it mean to be positive? Is it all about having a good attitude and seeing the bright side of every situation?

According to the Harvard Business Review, being optimistic is not about wearing rose-colored glasses and ignoring reality when it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. On the contrary, they define optimism as “the expectation of good things to happen, and the belief that behavior matters, especially in the face of challenges.”

In short, they believe that optimism is a combination of being a realist and seeing things for what they are, but maintaining the belief that things can always get better.

They also believe that optimism can be achieved through practicing gratitude, seeking progress (not perfection), and making the effort to connect with others on a deep and meaningful level.

So, how can we, as writers, practice more positivity in our daily lives?

In this great article from Boom Positive, they explain that one of the most powerful ways we can demonstrate positivity and optimism is through our language, both written and spoken. According to the author, “It is essential to learn how to replace negative statements and expressions with more positive ones and see how you will change your own worldview.”

This doesn’t mean that everything we write has to be filled with happy words like “laughter,” “joy,” or “love.” It just means that we should make a conscientious effort to choose words that have positive characteristics or portray positive emotions, such as happiness, dedication, motivation, and inspiration.

It also means we should replace negative words and phrases like “I can’t” with more positive things like “I won’t,” or “I have to” with “I want to.”

By making small changes in the way we write and speak, we can before more efficient and positive communicators. In addition, as Boom Positive explains, “Positive words will shape your mind, alleviate stress and improve your general well-being.”

What Makes a Book Cover Iconic?

The saying goes “don’t judge a book by its cover.” But let’s be honest… we’ve all done it. If you’re browsing the shelves of the local bookstore, there are certain book covers that simply jump out and grab your attention more than others.

There are also book covers that can easily be recognized by almost anyone, regardless of whether or not they have read the books.

Take Peter Benchley’s Jaws, for example. You would be hard pressed to find someone who, upon glancing at the giant shark head on the cover, couldn’t tell you what book it is.  

But what makes for an iconic book cover? Is it the design of the cover itself? Or does it have more to do with the popularity of the book?

In this great article from Literary Hub, they have compiled a list of the 25 most iconic book covers in history. To determine which covers made the cut, they looked for books that were easily recognized, were unique, and were frequently reproduced for things such as t-shirts, memes, or even used as inspiration for Halloween Costumes.

While Literary Hub’s list is quite comprehensive, here are a few more that we felt should have made the list:

J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Series

Okay, so this first one is actually a series and not a single cover, but J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series have easily some of the most iconic book covers of all time.

With their vivid, colorful images, it would likely be easy for anyone to pick them out of a lineup.

George Orwell’s 1984

While the book cover for George Orwell’s 1984 has been redone a few times since its first publication, there’s no mistaking that giant, creepy, all-seeing eye that is featured on the original cover.

Paired with the red and black soviet colors, 1984’s cover definitely qualifies as iconic.

Albert Camus’ The Stranger

It’s possible that you’ve never read The Stranger by Albert Camus. It’s even possible that you’ve never heard of this award-winning 1942 novella. However, the cover to this book probably looks familiar to you.

The simplistic black and white shards, combined with the stark white center gives the cover an almost dizzying sunburst effect, which is a perfect pairing for the book’s clever and thought-provoking story.

Overcoming Writer’s Block: 7 Great Tips for Getting Over the Hill

“It’s not the fear of writing that blocks people. It’s fear of not writing well; something quite different.” — Scott Berkun

All writers inevitably face the dreaded writer’s block phenomenon. Whether they like it or not, writers must deal with tough periods in which nothing seems to flow.

There are times when staring at a computer screen or a blank sheet of paper seems to last an eternity. However, writer’s block is not always about lacking something to say. It’s about fear. The fear of not properly articulating things.

To overcome writer’s block, it is crucial to focus on your message. Having a clear message will help make the language come out. Of course, there are times when rewrites are necessary. But that is merely a part of the process. The main point is to keep going despite the fear of “not writing well.”

Here are seven tried and true tips to overcome writer’s block. These tips will ensure readers get the message loud and clear.

7 Great Tips for Overcoming Writer’s Block

1. Create a comfortable workspace.

A comfortable workspace can mean the difference between writer’s block and turbocharged productivity.

Various factors go into creating a comfortable workspace. For instance, a cluttered, messy desk can become a distraction.

In contrast, a clear desk can boost productivity by creating a distraction-free zone.

Other key factors include room temperature, background noise, and lighting. Furnishings such as desks, chairs, and keyboards also greatly impact writer’s block.

In short, the more comfortable the workplace, the easier writing becomes.

The time of day can also become a significant factor in writer’s block.

Morning people may struggle writing at night. In contrast, a night owl may find it virtually impossible to get anything done in the morning. Therefore, finding the most comfortable time to write is pivotal in overcoming writer’s block.

2. Block distractions.

Nowadays, distractions abound.

Anything from a cluttered desk and poor room lighting, to constant incoming calls or the incessant chirping of notifications can foster writer’s block.

Highly productive writers find that getting rid of distractions enables them to focus better and get more done.

After all, getting into the so-called 'zone' requires unfettered focus.— Focus that can't be achieved with constant distractions making it hard to concentrate.

And when the mind cannot concentrate, writer’s block can easily creep in.

A 2012 article in the Harvard Business Review highlights this assertion. In essence, individuals cannot expect to be truly successful without finding their “flow.” However, achieving that state of heightened focus requires the removal of distractions. Getting into that mental state requires time to calm the mind and focus.

A great way to keep distractions at bay is the use of distraction-blocking apps. These apps temporarily mute notifications, restrict access to social media sites, or filter content (emails, calls, or messages). Removing distractions can be the single most powerful tool in fighting writer’s block.

3. Become a creature of habit.

Some of the best writers believe in the power of habit. Building consistent routines help keep the mind sharp and focused. This approach helps writers feel comfortable, thereby boosting their time in “the zone.”

Nobel Laureate John Steinbeck once noted, “In writing, habit seems to be a much stronger force than either willpower or inspiration.”

Indeed, inspiration is a key factor in effective writing. Likewise, writing requires willpower to get things done.

These two factors, however, pale in comparison to habit. Inspiration and willpower can only go so far. Consistency and routine help build great literary works one word at a time.

Great writing habits include working simultaneously, devoting a specific period, sitting at the same place, and taking scheduled breaks. While it is not necessary to work for hours on end every day, it is paramount to maximize output during productive periods, whenever they happen to be.

4. Use writing prompts.

Often, the hardest part of writing is the first word. Jotting down that first word can open the floodgates. The challenge, however, is unlocking that literary deluge. Writing prompts can serve as catalysts to unleash creativity.

Writing prompts are a common device in school. Teachers typically use a few words to introduce the topic for students to write.

For instance, prompts like 'write about the best day of your life in 300 words or less' serve to delineate what students must produce.

Similarly, professional writers can use prompts to help them guide efforts.

Legendary writer Ernest Hemingway used prompts consistently. He would narrow his focus down to a specific topic and begin writing.

Moreover, Hemingway would usually stop writing mid-sentence. This practice enabled him to pick up from where he left off.

According to personal accounts, Hemingway felt it was harder to start fresh than to complete an ongoing idea or discussion.

Indeed, writing prompts can help writers overcome writer’s block. This strategy helps reduce distraction while enabling writers to get past the roadblocks keeping them from penning their ideas.

5. Accept flaws.

The fear of writing often stems from the fear of making mistakes. In other words, writers often seek to be “perfect.” Thus, a common attitude is to produce flawless language and narrative from the start. The reality, though, is much different.

To begin with, there is no such thing as perfect writing. All writing work is subject to improvement.

Professional writers understand that editors can help them boost their use of language, find factual inaccuracies, and assist in crafting the right approach for the intended target audience.

Writers ought to accept that their work is always prone to improvement. The challenge then becomes not to take things personally.

Instead, one must keep an open mind and accept suggestions and helpful criticism.

If constructive observations mean rewriting parts of the text or furthering research, then so be it.

Ultimately, letting go of the need to be perfect can significantly boost overcoming writer’s block.

6. Read as much as possible.

Common wisdom suggests that great writers are avid readers.

This logic assumes that good writers can use others’ work to draw inspiration.

Indeed, reading can help burst through writer’s block.

Reading consistently helps writers find new ways to articulate their ideas. The aim, of course, is not to piggyback on others’ work.

Quite the contrary.

Being an avid reader aims to help writers become more attuned to how other writers approach their craft.

This practice is akin to what professional athletes do when observing other top athletes.

There is always an opportunity to learn something that can help them improve their game.

7. Avoid acknowledging it.

Acknowledging writer’s block creates an unfavorable predisposition. It signals to the writer that there’s something “wrong.”

After all, writer’s block is not a good thing.

While it may be impossible to ignore it completely, focusing on it can fix one’s mind on the block. This fixation only enhances the block itself.

There are times when the best thing a writer can do is get up and do something else.

Common practices include exercise, meditation, or merely switching to another activity.

When the mind obsesses with getting things done, the attention placed on writer’s block only increases. Therefore, a great remedy to overcome writer’s block is to forget about it. Letting go helps liberate the mind. Eventually, ideas will begin flowing again.

How can a ghostwriter help overcome writer’s block?

Unfortunately, writer’s block can delay or even derail writing projects. There are instances in which writers cannot seem to get over the hill. This seeming inability to move a project forward may cause significant frustration and disappointment.

Here is where a professional ghostwriter can make a huge impact.

A professional ghostwriter can support writers struggling with writer’s block in several ways.

First, a professional ghostwriter can assist a writer by acting as a coach.

Professional ghostwriters can share their tips and strategies for overcoming writer’s block.

The benefit of their experience can help struggling writers develop their coping strategies.

Second, professional ghostwriters can produce parts or text. For instance, a writer stuck on a particular topic can seek help producing that content. The writer can then resume working on the remainder of the project.

Third, a ghostwriter can tackle an entire project. In this approach, a writer can take a step back to catch their breath and collect their thoughts. Meanwhile, the ghostwriter can set about producing the remaining content.

In the end, enlisting the help of a professional ghostwriter can mean the difference between a project stuck in neutral and getting it off the ground once and for all.

One Final Thought…

Writers should not fear writer’s block. It is an unfortunate part of being a writer. Thus, overcoming writer’s block is about developing the right set of strategies that can facilitate dealing with writer’s block when it occurs. By having adequate strategies, writers can reduce their anxiety, and most importantly, focus on doing what they do best.

The Proper Use of Quotes

The simple quotation mark has a surprisingly long and rich history.

Its origin dates back a lot further than one might think.

While the practice of using a written symbol to indicate an excerpt from another written work dates all the way back to Ancient Greece, documented history informs us that the ancestors of the double quotation mark that we use today first appear in the margins of fifteenth-century manuscripts as annotations that bestow higher importance on the passages beside them.

Over the 400 or so years that followed this debut, the quotation mark experienced a slow evolution that saw changes in shape, curvature, relative height, axial orientation, and meaning.

While it’s debatable that their appearance continues to evolve to this day, considering that designers create new fonts every year, quotation marks in their modern manifestation exist to do essentially just three things:

  1. 1. To indicate a quotation from another written work or to quote the direct speech of real people or fictional characters.
  1. 2. To cite the titles of shorter literary or musical works like chapters in a book, episodes of a series, or songs from an album.
  1. 3. To highlight the irony of a word or phrase in context or imbue it with sarcasm.

Is it ever really that easy, though?

The simplicity of this three-item list hides all manner of exceptions, unique circumstances, and nuance. If anything related to quotes is easy, it’s how easily they are misused or even abused.

The literary consequences of a couple of errant quotation marks can be dire. The improper placement of the seemingly simple quotation mark can massively change the meaning behind a written statement.

Sign-makers—professional and amateur alike—are notorious for their apparent predisposition towards the gratuitous inclusion of quotation marks in their work, and the fruits of their labor are often quite hilarious.

The following guide aims to refresh your quoting know-how by laying out the basic rules of quotation and covering the various uses for quotes in written documents. It will also delve into style considerations.

In other words, by reading the rest of this blog, you’ll fortify your future work against an unsolicited appearance on this one.

Quoting Spoken or Written Words

At their core, quotation marks are for indicating to the reader that the words they are about to read are not the words of the writer…kinda.

While all the words in a work of fiction are the author’s words, a novelist uses quotation marks to differentiate between the various lines of dialogue and the narration.

Properly formatted quotation can bring a story to life and keep it flowing, but quotes are a matter of grave importance when it comes to other kinds of writing.

Quotes are especially important to non-fiction writers like historians, journalists, and academics. Quotes enable them to borrow the words of another—whether they are spoken or written—to support their idea, their argument, or the larger story they are attempting to tell.

An objective reporter can use quotes from various witnesses, participants, or officials to further illuminate the current event they are reporting on.

The subjective writer behind an opinion piece might use the quotes of another to support the stance they hold on a matter.

A student crafting a thesis statement can borrow the words of established writers or experts in a particular field to back up the claim they’re making.

So, how do they do it without getting slapped with charges of libel or plagiarism?

We’ll start at the very beginning.

Let’s say a guy named John Smith once said or wrote something regarding his feelings toward cauliflower and you wanted to quote him on it. Let’s try putting his exact words into quotes:


“I hate cauliflower.”


That doesn’t really cut it. You need to attribute the quote to someone:


John Smith said, “I hate cauliflower.”


With that, you have a perfect, basic, direct quote. Or, if you prefer, you can flip it around:


“I hate cauliflower,” John Smith said.


The sentence in either orientation informs the reader that the quote was spoken as opposed to written, and the quote is attributed to the speaker who uttered the words within the quotation marks.

It is also possible to quote a speaker without quotation marks:


John Smith said that he hates cauliflower.


This is known as an indirect quote. While the sentence relays the exact same information as the previous example without embellishment—and it maintains the emotional level of John’s disdain for cauliflower—it does not use the actual sentence that John spoke. Therefore, it does not require quotation marks.

Paraphrasing is another matter and it should not be confused with indirect quotation.  Paraphrasing is when there is a reference to a spoken quote or a written passage and its sentiment is accurately captured, but there is no claim to any quotes in the retelling:


John Smith once told me about his feelings towards cauliflower. I don’t remember exactly how he put it, but he’s definitely not a fan of that particular vegetable.


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Capitalization and Punctuation

When dealing with quotes, the rules of capitalization and punctuation are a matter of great importance as well.

If they are misplaced or ignored, it’s not only bad form, but it can confuse your reader and throw them off course.

Just as with a regular sentence, a sentence quoted in full should begin with a capital letter—even if the quote appears within the sentence that houses it:


John looked up at me and said, “Man oh man, cauliflower is really gross.”


A quote broken up part of the way through is known as an interrupted quote. With interrupted quotes, the second part of the quote is not capitalized:


“Man oh man,” said John while looking up at me, “cauliflower is really gross.”


As you can see in the example above, a comma follows the statement that indicates the speaker of the quote, and one is placed within the first half of the interrupted quote.

Also, take note that the period is placed within the closing quotation mark when the sentence concludes with a quote.

If you choose to quote only part of the sentence, the sentence fragment should not begin with a capital letter:


John called the cauliflower “really gross” before throwing it to the floor.


The placement of question marks in or outside of quotation marks depends on the context of the sentence:


John asked them, “What is it with you guys and this obsession with cauliflower?”

Does John always react like that whenever anyone says, “Let’s all have literally nothing but cauliflower for dinner”?


While rare, alternate punctuation outside of the quotation marks may be necessary in certain circumstances:


John often ranted about what he called cauliflower’s “Three Evils”: its appearance, its smell, and its taste.

Mr. Smith happily sampled all the vegetable dishes that were “not white and weird”; he ignored the various cauliflower casseroles.


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Quotes within Quotes

It might sound like the setup to a brainteaser, but as a writer, sometimes you have to quote someone who quoted someone else in their own quote—maybe it’s a bit of a tongue-twister too.

To execute a successful secondary level of quotation, the single quotation mark is all you need:


Phil asked, “Did John really scream, ‘Get that cauliflower away from me’?”


If you’re looking for the single quotation mark on your keyboard, it’s located right beneath the double quotation marks that we’ve already been working so hard. You might know it as an apostrophe, but don’t worry, when it comes to flipping it the right way your computer will know just what to do.

Block Quotations

Block quotations come in handy when literally all the words in a particular passage from an author’s work are just so good that you feel as though you’d be doing a disservice to your reader by not sharing every last one of them.

Students and researchers often make use of block quotations when supporting a claim in an academic paper or a nonfiction manuscript.

Block quotes differ from the kinds of quotes we’ve discussed so far because, well, they’re way longer and they look like blocks.

You can’t just slap a long passage in between a pair of quotation marks and call it a day. There are certain rules you have to follow, depending on whom you’re writing for, and proper block quotes look pretty cool anyway.

So, let’s give one a go:


As you can see above, block quotations don’t use quotation marks at all. Their indentation is ½ inch further in and a line below their introduction. Finally, they conclude with a citation.

Style guides differ, but generally, if a typed-out passage takes up more than a few lines on the page, it should be presented in the form of a block quotation.

For questions regarding the proper format and citation styles of block quotes according to the most commonly followed manuals, consult this helpful visual from The University of Arizona.

Alternate Uses

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While italics are used for citing or referencing larger works, quotation marks are used for citing shorter portions of them:


“Looks like Brains” is the worst song on John Smith’s independently released folk album Cauliflowernication.


Single quotation marks can be used in place of parentheses when translating an italicized foreign word within a sentence:


The injured German waiter said that all he did was offer the mysterious man some blumenkohl ‘cauliflower’ just before the assault occurred.


Scare quotes or shudder quotes are arguably the most fun kind of quotes, but as one can see from the examples linked at the beginning of this article, they should be used sparingly and with extreme caution.

Scare quotes paint the words between them with anything from irony to sarcasm to disdain, and it’s up to the reader to determine their meaning from context. Essentially, scare quotes indicate that the words they encapsulate do not actually mean what they usually mean.

A couple of examples based on what we’ve come to understand about John Smith:


Tonight, we’re having ham, mashed potatoes, and John’s “favorite” side dish: cauliflower.


A great way to “thank” John for totaling your car would be to sneak a whole head of cauliflower into his pillowcase.



Dialogue

We’ve already demonstrated how to properly frame a line of spoken dialogue, how to tag the speaker, and how to interrupt it with action.

When you’re dealing with multiple lines of dialogue—like when two fictional characters in a novel speak to one another—following a set of guidelines will make the conversation flow naturally for your reader.

Beyond the quoting rules that we’ve already covered in this blog, there are a few more we should go over when it comes dialogue:

New Speaker, New Paragraph. Whenever a speaker begins speaking, his or her words get their own paragraph—even if their line is just a single word. The act of making each line its own paragraph indicates to the reader that a new speaker is speaking.

Indentation. Each new “paragraph” (scare quotes!) of dialogue should be indented unless the quote itself is the beginning of a new chapter in a book or a new scene in the story.

Speeches. In the rare event that a character speaks for so long that their words flow into multiple paragraphs—like when one character is telling a long story or literally delivering a speech—leave off the end quotation at the conclusion of one paragraph but start the next one with another opening quotation mark.

Em Dashes. An em dash (one of these guys —) is a great way to represent one character cutting off the words of another with an interruption.

For this one, maybe a demonstration is in order:


“Come out on the veranda,” Lindsey beckoned, “I’ve prepared a glorious vegetable spread with multiple dips!”

“But I thought I told you that if I even see a cauliflow—”

“Say no more John,” she reassured him, “I’ve banned them entirely from the property.”


Clarity

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When quoting spoken words or written text, getting them right is a matter of utmost importance.

Occasionally, when endeavoring to insert quotes into a document, you’ll encounter misspellings, poor grammar, or tenses that don’t match the one you’re working with. Luckily, there are workarounds for such a scenario.

When a misspelling or grammatical error is discovered, the ethical practice is to preserve it, but you wouldn’t want anyone to think that the error was your own. This is where brackets come to the rescue:


“Johnny Boy hated collyflower [sic] even when he was little.”


Placing sic (Latin for “thus” or “so”) italicized and between brackets is how you can indicate to the reader that you transcribed the quote exactly as you found it—warts and all.

Brackets are also a way to provide the reader with information they wouldn’t have otherwise. Using the same sentence, we’ll inform the reader that “Johnny Boy” is a nickname for a character we’re already familiar with:


“Johnny Boy [John Smith] hated collyflower [sic] even when he was little.”


Brackets are also at your disposal if you need to change a word in a quote so that it fits properly in your sentence.

If John Smith once said:


“My aversion to cauliflower has always been a problem for me.”


You could (if absolutely necessary) quote him like this:


John Smith’s aversion to cauliflower has “always been a problem for [him].”


Conversely, you may need to remove words from quotes entirely so that any off-topic information contained within them doesn’t confuse the narrative.

For example:


“Whole Foods is a store with delicious hot bar offerings and a wide selection of coffees from around the world, but it’s also a purveyor of cauliflower.”


With an ellipsis (three periods separated by spaces), we can shorten the quote to align with our topic while letting the reader know that unrelated words were removed:


“Whole Foods is . . . a purveyor of cauliflower.”


Presuming what follows is more negativity towards cauliflower, omitting the complimentary remarks about Whole Foods doesn’t change the overall sentiment of the sentence.

On the other hand, misquoting someone is at best a careless mistake requiring a correction or retraction; at its worst, a purposeful misquotation is a malicious act and grounds for a defamation lawsuit. If you handle your quotes with care and diligence, you won’t ever find yourself in either situation.

Style

One might think a literary practice so constrained by rules wouldn’t have any room to spare for personal style choices.

But when it comes to quotes, it’s in there.

With quotes, you can choose how to quote, what to quote, and how often to quote.

You can even choose how to attribute quotes.

For more wisdom on the matter, we reached out to Barbara Adams, a knowledgeable (and stylish) copywriter with The Writers For Hire:

“I have a degree in journalism,” Ms. Adams warned us at the outset, “so that definitely influences how I use and think about quotes.”

Warnings of journalistic bias aside, Ms. Adams was quick to dispense some pretty universal advice for writers of all breeds:

“Quote length is important,” she says. “My experience is that some writers struggle with how to introduce a quote, so they just dump a long quote in place. It would be better to summarize what the speaker is saying and then use the most important/cogent idea as the actual quote.”

Despite the fact that we may have already ignored her advice by just dumping rather than summarizing the very quote in which she gives the advice, what Ms. Adams said next was so poignant and perfect we felt it deserved its own block quotation:

Coming from a journalism background, I have no problem with using “said” or “says” over and over. I know some writers like to use other words – exclaimed, pointed out, noted, etc. – but I feel those should be limited to books (fiction or non-fiction). I write a lot of trade articles and using anything other than said or says (or “added”) would be completely out of place. I recently read a piece where there were a ton of quotes, and each had a different verb attached and it was just jarring. It was like the writer had done everything he could to avoid using “said” and got the thesaurus out, instead.

Sometimes it’s a classy move to conclude a written work with a quote.

Just in case this is one of those times, that’s how we’re going to end this blog entry.

The following is a pretty good quote that Ms. Adams gave us when asked if she had any quotes…about quotes. Plus, it gives us the chance to use brackets:

“[Quotes are] indispensable for adding color, personality and context to an article, but they also serve another, more practical purpose: they break up grey columns of copy.”

11 Great Organization Tools for Writers

Being a writer requires a combination of talent and discipline. Successful writers must develop routines and habits that allow them to harness their creative powers. In addition, writers must make time to conduct research, take notes, edit, and proofread their work.

Indeed, the entire writing process demands a great deal of organization and careful attention to detail.

Luckily, there are a lot of fantastic tools available to help writers stay organized and on task.

In this article, we will explore eleven great organization tools for writers to implement into their daily routines.   

11 Great Organization Tools for Writers

1. Scrivener

Scrivener aims to be the ultimate organizational tool.

This tool for writers looks to incorporate everything a writer needs to produce great content. It focuses on helping writers organize notes, prepare outlines, reference research, and produce manuscripts.

Additionally, Scrivener helps writers stay organized by bringing every kind of file together in a single application.

In general, Scrivener serves any type of writer, from novelists to comic book designers. In particular, non-fiction writers can greatly benefit as it allows research notes, PDF files, audio notes, and transcribed interviews to mesh together in a single point.

Writers can highlight text to include notes, references, and websites. It is a complete tool for writers to stay organized.

The biggest drawback is the steep learning curve that comes with this application. It takes time to learn how the entire program functions. Fortunately, the $45 license for Windows and $49 for Mac come with tutorials.

On the whole, Scrivener is a great tool to help build organization skills for writers.

2. Google Docs

Google Docs is a ubiquitous tool known for its flexibility and reliable online presence. After all, a stable internet connection is enough to get access to Google Docs.

In particular, Google Docs is a great tool for writers due to its collaborative nature. As such, teams working on a single file can track changes and make edits in real-time.

Google Docs’ best feature is that it is free.

Also, it works on any device. As a result, it is a perfect choice for anyone looking for a simple, easy-to-use word processor with basic functionality.

Moreover, it is a great tool for organization as it allows writers to offer suggestions before accepting changes.

On the downside, Google Docs has limited capabilities. Particularly, its performance slows down as documents get bigger or multiple images get inserted.

Furthermore, many standard functions available in other word processors are not accessible on Google Docs.

Nevertheless, it is a great option for any user looking for a simple and cost-effective way of collecting ideas and producing relatively simple documents.

3. Freedom

Freedom is a productivity-boosting app. Specifically, Freedom keeps distractions at bay by temporarily restricting user access to certain apps and websites. For instance, instant messages from social media apps and non-essential emails get tucked away for later reference.

This great tool for writers helps cut down on unproductive and wasted time, helping writers concentrate on producing great content.

Freedom works across multiple devices and starts at $6.99 a month. Also, there is a $129 lifetime fee. This tool for writers is worth its cost, especially when distractions are too hard to ignore.

4. ProWritingAid

There are plenty of spelling and grammar checking tools out there. However, most tools fail to deliver an in-depth analysis of writing style and language use.

ProWritingAid provides a detailed analysis of writing based on grammar, spelling, and style.

Moreover, this app gives suggestions on emotion, unusual language, reading grades, plagiarism, and variety. In particular, ProWritingAid offers suggestions on the fly. As such, it helps writers and editors improve writing as they go along.

The biggest advantage that ProWritingAid offers is easy integration with various platforms such as Microsoft Word, iOS, Google Chrome, and Scrivener, among others.

This app offers a free trial option, which is worth using to gauge its effectiveness. Paid plans start at $79 a year. This price is on par with other similar options in the market.

Overall, it is a tool for writers looking to organize the most common mistakes they make to avoid them moving forward.

5. Novel Factory

Novel Factory is a sophisticated organizational tool for writers.

Novel Factory mainly focuses on fiction writing, helping writers to build plots, develop characters, and organize notes. However, non-fiction writers can also benefit from Novel Factory’s great organization scheme.

In addition, this app’s great character organization tool can become highly useful when managing topics and subtopics.

Novel Factory’s scene management feature organizes individual scenes, or topics, highlighting key information. Additionally, the app’s plot manager uses an index card system, which can also be helpful for non-fiction writers. Novel Factory links images, weblinks, and other media to specific scenes, text, or notes.

Ultimately, Novel Factory is a highly useful organizational tool for fiction and non-fiction writers alike. Its word process and split-screen view greatly enhance visibility when working with various sources and materials.

6. Evernote

Evernote is the ultimate note-taking app on the market. As such, it is a wonderful organizational tool for writers. It allows writers to organize notes seamlessly. Evernote is a collaborative organization tool that allows multiple users to share notes, files, screenshots, weblinks, audio, and video.

Additionally, Evernote has a solid search feature. In other words, users can go through multiple notes quickly and easily.

On the whole, Evernote is a great alternative to OneNote. It gives writers the flexibility to organize their entire data set into “notebooks.”

Consequently, this arrangement makes it quite easy for fiction and non-fiction writers alike.

The basic Evernote account is free. The Premium version starts at $7.99 a month. It is certainly worth starting with the free version and then deciding if the paid version’s additional features are worth the cost.

7. Ulysses

The Ulysses app is a word processor specific to Mac users. As such, it is a great organization for writers using Mac computers. On the whole, Ulysses provides a clean interface that promotes distraction-free writing. Additionally, this app allows writers to save all work related to a single project in one spot, allowing for easy access later on.

Ulysses’ most useful feature is its ability to publish directly on WordPress and Medium. This feature makes Ulysses a strong app for bloggers, journalists, marketers, or anyone who publishes frequently. Please note that this app does offer support in character or plot development. As a result, Ulysses caters more to non-fiction writers. Nevertheless, fiction writers can also make good use of its robust features.

Lastly, Ulysses helps writers organize their progress by offering a goal-setting and tracking function. This app is a highly useful tool as it helps writers stay on track.

This great app for writers certainly helps manage progress effectively. Ulysses syncs documents with multiple devices. Thus, it is good for writers constantly on the go.

The app is free to use with a subscription fee starting at $4.99 a month.

8. Vellum

When it comes to designing and formatting books, Vellum is a go-to organization app for writers.

Vellum allows writers, editors, and publishers to format books prior to publication.

As such, this facilitates organization for writers by reducing the amount of work needed to produce quality, professional-looking books.

Currently, Vellum is available for Mac users only. The app facilitates importing files in various formats. Also, editing files is easy within the app. However, it is worth noting that Vellum is not a word processor. Additionally, users can preview books before exporting the finished file in the format of their choice.

The app is free to use. However, it requires a subscription before exporting finished files for publication. The first subscription has a $199 fee. It allows unlimited e-book exports. The $249.99 fee allows unlimited e-book and paperback exports.

Overall, Vellum is great a saving time during the final editing process. It is a great organizational tool for writers who publish frequently.

9. Focus Writer

Focus writer is a “bare-bones” word processing tool for writers. Its aim is to remove distractions so writers can focus solely on producing great content.

On the whole, it has a clean design. Toolbars disappear in full-screen mode. As such, this great organization app for writers aims to reduce visual strain. Additionally, Focus Writer helps track writing goals based on time and word count. Therefore, Focus Writer promotes organization for writers by helping them plan their work.

Nevertheless, please note that Focus Writer lacks many of the advanced features that Microsoft Word offers. Therefore, it is a great organization and writing tool for writers who do not need much more than text-based content. Best of all, Focus Writer is free to use. It is worth giving it a try, particularly when distractions are a consideration.

10. Fast Pencil

Fast Pencil is a fantastic organizational app for writers. It allows writers to self-publish their work seamlessly. It facilitates organization for writers by enabling formatting, e-book publishing, and print publishing (including ISBN and retail barcode).

Fast Pencil aids worldwide publishing and distribution.

This great app also eases the management of sales and royalties.

It is a complete publishing management tool for writers. Therefore, it saves time and effort when planning the publishing portion of a book.

Please bear in mind that this app does not work offline. Moreover, it is not a word processor. As such, Fast Pencil manages finished manuscripts ready for publication. The app is free to use with additional packages that unlock its full features.

11. Bibisco

Bibisco is an all-in-one organization tool for creative writers.

This wonderful organization tool for writers incorporates a word processor, organizer, timeline creator, plot development tool, chapter tracker, and character creation function.

Bibisco’s best feature is its outlining function. It facilitates generating outlines that lead to simple character and plot development. Moreover, its features help creative writers navigate multiple characters, places, items, and events throughout the story’s development.

On the downside, Bibisco is an open-source tool. Therefore, it consistently gets updates. Writers need to save their work frequently in order to prevent information loss during a sudden update. The app is technically free but requests a “pay what you want” donation. The “donation” is roughly $15.

Organization Is Everything

Seasoned writers know that organization is the backbone of any successful book project. Therefore, writing organization tools greatly facilitate the most difficult part of the writing process: outlining ideas and organizing thoughts.

Nevertheless, please bear in mind that a rough draft needs to go through proofreading and editing.

While nothing can substitute trained human eyes, spellcheckers and editing tools can greatly cut down overall editing.

Additionally, publishing tools that enable easy formatting and publication aid in cutting down on overall production time.

This approach helps writers better organize their time and efforts. After all, any tools that can help reduce time and effort are more than welcome.

Lastly, choosing the right tools begins with testing them out. From there, writers can decide which organization tools work best for their particular styles and rhythm.  

Five Great Holiday Gifts for Writers

If you know any writers, then you know they can be picky (some might even say pretentious). But it’s really not that hard buying gifts for the writers in your life – especially not with TWFH on your side. Here we’ve put together a list of five of our favorite gifts and gadgets for writers.

#1: Moleskine Notebooks

Moleskine notebooks will forever be the signature of serious writers, artists, and notetakers. But the hottest thing for writers right now are Field Notes. These cute, compact memo books are great for scribbling down notes and ideas in a hurry – and with several priced at just under $10, they’re more affordable than the Moleskine line (it’s also rumored that Pulitzer-prize winner Bryan Monroe and Anderson Cooper love their Field Notes). Try ordering from the website or checking out this list of retailers.

#2: Software

Software is always a great gift idea for writers (especially if they’re the starving-artist type). Right now I’m drooling over Final Draft 12, the newest version of the industry-standard software for screenwriters. This software isn’t just for screenwriters – playwrites and fiction writers will be able to appreciate the updated storyboarding function too.

#3: Jewelry

For jewelry lovers out there, give a writer in your life one of these stylish Ted Baker gold pen necklaces. At just under $40, these necklaces are truly affordable chic. And best of all, your writer will never have to scramble around looking for lost pens.

#4: Books

Books, books, books! Seems like a typical choice for writers. For a more practical approach to book-giving, try the new 2021 Writer’s Market line. It’ll help your writer make a little cash and get published (a great encouragement as the new year approaches).

#5: A Fancy Pen

Every writer needs a decent pen. If you’ve got some cash to throw around, check out these Livescribe smartpens (starting from $99.95). Perfect for gadget-lovers, these pens will record audio as you take notes – then you can upload the audio to a home PC and share it through email, Facebook, etc … that way you never miss a word. A MontBlanc pen is another option for writers – if you’ve got $200-$2,000 to spare. For the more frugal shoppers, go rogue with these instructions on how to turn any pen into a Mont Blanc.

Fantastic Words to Describe Obscure Emotions

Have you ever found yourself searching for a word to describe certain emotions or feelings, but just can’t put your finger on the right one? Well, believe it or not, there is actually a word for that. It’s called “lethologica.”

But lethologica does not have to get you down. It turns out there is a whole collection of words to describe obscure emotions or feelings that you often don’t know names for. So many words, in fact, that there is an entire website dedicated to them called The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.

While the website includes 117 of these heartbreakingly beautiful words, here are some of our favorites:

Anchorage

n. the desire to hold on to time as it passes, like trying to keep your grip on a rock in the middle of a river, feeling the weight of the current against your chest while your elders float on downstream, calling over the roar of the rapids, “Just let go—it’s okay—let go.”

Anecdoche

n. a conversation in which everyone is talking but nobody is listening, simply overlaying disconnected words like a game of Scrabble, with each player borrowing bits of other anecdotes as a way to increase their own score, until we all run out of things to say.

Ambedo

Image by kie-ker from Pixabay 

n. a kind of melancholic trance in which you become completely absorbed in vivid sensory details—raindrops skittering down a window, tall trees leaning in the wind, clouds of cream swirling in your coffee—briefly soaking in the experience of being alive, an act that is done purely for its own sake.

Chrysalism

n. the amniotic tranquility of being indoors during a thunderstorm, listening to waves of rain pattering against the roof like an argument upstairs, whose muffled words are unintelligible but whose crackling release of built-up tension you understand perfectly.

Gnossienne

n. a moment of awareness that someone you’ve known for years still has a private and mysterious inner life, and somewhere in the hallways of their personality is a door locked from the inside, a stairway leading to a wing of the house that you’ve never fully explored—an unfinished attic that will remain maddeningly unknowable to you, because ultimately neither of you has a map, or a master key, or any way of knowing exactly where you stand.

Lilo

n. a friendship that can lie dormant for years only to pick right back up instantly, as if no time had passed since you last saw each other.

Onism

Image by stokpic from Pixabay 

n. the awareness of how little of the world you’ll experience.

Rubatosis

n. the unsettling awareness of your own heartbeat, whose tenuous muscular throbbing feels less like a metronome than a nervous ditty your heart is tapping to itself, the kind that people compulsively hum or sing while walking in complete darkness, as if to casually remind the outside world: “I’m here, I’m here, I’m here.”

Rückkehrunruhe

n. the feeling of returning home after an immersive trip only to find it fading rapidly from your awareness—to the extent you have to keep reminding yourself that it happened at all, even though it felt so vivid just days ago—which makes you wish you could smoothly cross-dissolve back into everyday life, or just hold the shutter open indefinitely and let one scene become superimposed on the next, so all your days would run together and you’d never have to call “cut!”

Sonder

n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries, and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.

Vellichor

Image by Public Co from Pixabay 

n. the strange wistfulness of used bookstores, which are somehow infused with the passage of time—filled with thousands of old books you’ll never have time to read, each of which is itself locked in its own era, bound and dated and papered over like an old room the author abandoned years ago, a hidden annex littered with thoughts left just as they were on the day they were captured.

10+ (More) Great Books Every Aspiring Writer Should Read

Writers love to read about writing. From advice on mastering their craft, to memoirs of writers, and even straight-up grammar tips, books about writing are a major part of every aspiring writer’s library.

The Writers For Hire writer, Jennifer Rizzo, told us about “5 Great Books Every Aspiring Writer Should Read,” and they were great suggestions, but there are a lot more fantastic books on writing out there.

So, once you’ve devoured those five books, here are 10 more that are well-worth your time.

Some will teach you new things. Others will motivate and inspire you to creative genius! (Well, that’s the hope, anyway!) And all of them will help you be a better writer for having read them.

1. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life – Anne Lamott

If you are a writer, dream of being a writer, or just like writers, this is a must-read book.

Lamott has a friendly, unabashed style that makes you feel like you’re chatting over drinks with a buddy and getting the inside scoop. You’ll be inspired, educated, and highly entertained.

If you doubt it, just skim the chapter called “Polaroids.” If that doesn’t grab you, nothing will.

2. Writing Down the Bones – Natalie Goldberg

Much like “Bird by Bird,” Goldberg’s book is an instructional writing book that is filled with personal anecdotes that are witty, charming, and filled with insight.

It’s not all grounded in sentence structure, either. Chapters like “Don’t Use Writing to Get Love” are very personal and go well beyond the page. It’s a great book for beginners who are trying to find their own voice.

3. Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation – Lynne Truss

Truss’s “Eats, Shoots, & Leaves” is a book about punctuation that spent 25 weeks on the New York Times Best-Seller list in 2004. I’ll pause to let you mull that over.

A bemoaning of the slipping attention to correct punctuation, this book is funny, but also imminently useful.

If you struggle with commas, semi-colons, or any part of punctuation in the English language, Truss probably tackles it in this book and provides simple, fool-proof methods to remember the rules.

And if you’re curious about that title, just google the “Panda eats, shoots and leaves joke.”

4. Robert’s Rules of Writing – Robert Masello

As you start to venture down the trail of becoming a writer, you will undoubtedly be bombarded with rules.

From instructors to successful writers and even well-intentioned relatives, rules like “You have to write every day!” and “Show, don’t tell!” will start to pile up in your mental file cabinet.

Robert Masello wrote his book “Robert’s Rules of Writing: 101 Unconventional Lessons Every Writer Needs to Know” to add to your file while blowing up some of the rules you thought you knew. For example:

  • Rule 13: Stop Reading
  • Rule 52: Lose Your Form
  • Rule 97: Spill Your Secrets

5. On Writing Well – William Zinsser

Zinsser’s “On Writing Well” is less focused on the fiction crowd and zeroes in on storytelling in non-fiction writing. It’s loaded with educational features focusing on the craft of writing, including different forms like memoir and travel writing.

There are countless tips and tricks that writers can put to use in their writing to make it absolutely shine.

If you enjoy writing non-fiction, this is a must-read.

6. The Artist’s Way – Julia Cameron

This book looks at the creative process and working towards improving creativity.

Subtitled “A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity,” Cameron’s book is a faith-based approach to finding your creativity using a 12-week program.

“The Artist’s Way” is categorized as a self-help book and made it onto selfhelp.fm’s Top 100 Self Help Books of All Time list.

If you’re looking to develop your creative life and are willing to put in some effort, “The Artist’s Way” and its accompanying workbook could be just what you need.

7. The Writing Life – Annie Dillard

Instead of being an instructional book, “The Writing Life” by Annie Dillard is a sneak peek behind the curtain into a writer’s life as she does her work.

It’s not always pretty, either. Actually, it’s rarely pretty.

It’s difficult, frustrating, and oftentimes overwhelming, but the anecdotes help you understand just what to expect if you’re going to live as a writer and how to persevere.

If you love raw and honest writing, this one is for you.

8. Everybody Writes – Ann Handley

Ann Handley is a web content influencer. Rather than writing novels or short stories, her genre is the blog post and the social media ad.

This book is simple and straightforward and full of tips to help anyone write better, whether you’re trying to market your own business or just look a little smarter on Twitter.

You’ll brush up on your grammar and gain insight into content-marketing techniques.

9. The Writer’s Journey – Christopher Vogler

Christopher Vogler started this book as a memo for Disney executives as he worked on The Lion King 26 years ago. (Can you believe The Lion King is that old?) It’s essentially a reworking of Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero With a Thousand Faces” made more approachable and relevant for today’s screenwriters.

You don’t have to be writing for the screen to appreciate the useful tips and strategies laid out in “The Writer’s Journey.” This book should be on every writer’s desk.

10. Light the Dark: Writers on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process – Edited by Joe Fassler

What happens when you ask a bunch of successful writers to pinpoint one of the most influential passages they’ve ever read? This book happens.

With entries by Stephen King, Amy Tan, Michael Chabon, Jonathan Franzen, and a couple of dozen more writers, “Light the Dark” is a fascinating and inspiring read.

Each writer discusses a piece of writing that not only moved them but changed them somehow. Each entry is an easy 5-10-minute read, which makes a great choice for jump starting each day with a dose of inspiration.

Bonus Books

A lot of writing doesn’t end up on bestseller lists. It’s done with a different purpose in mind. If you want help learning how to take your writing from good to amazing in a specific field, try one of these great reads.

Write, Publish, Repeat: The No-Luck Required Guide to Self-Publishing Success – Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant with David Wright.

Self-publishing is more common, and more accepted, than ever. But it can still be a bit confusing to the first-timer. This book walks you through it step by step.

Words that Sell: More than 6,000 Entries to Help You Promote Your Products, Services, and IdeasRichard Bayan

Think of this as a copywriter’s thesaurus. It’s an absolute gem to keep close by your computer.

The Copywriters Handbook – Bob Bly

A standard for copywriters, this is everything you need to know to turn your words into sales.

The Wizard of Ads – Roy Williams

Fun to read with very short chapters, “The Wizard of Ads” dives into the strategies involved with writing truly great and memorable ads.

Nicely Said: Writing for the Web with Style and Purpose – Nicole Fenton and Kate Kiefer Lee

Writing for the web is a lot different than writing for the printed page. This book is a primer for understanding the language of the internet.

Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need – Blake Snyder

“Save the Cat!” is an insider’s guide to writing for the screen, with funny takes on everything from loglines to rules he calls “screenplay physics.” Despite the title, Snyder wrote five more companion books for this one.  

Writers’ Tips for Working from Home

Ever since COVID-19 lockdowns started in March of 2020 and forced many people to work from home, the internet has been full of hilarious memes. From jokes about doing Zoom calls in your pajamas, to cartoons depicting parents trying to work with kids in the house, it’s clear that the switch from the office to working remotely has been a challenge for many.

There is one group of people who are well versed in the art of working from home, though. Those people are writers!

With frequent deadlines hanging over their heads, writers are no stranger to hunkering down and isolating in order to get their work done.

In this great blog from The Guardian, they take some of the best work-from-home advice from great writers and compile it to help readers manage their work and thrive during these crazy times.

While some of the tips, such as making sure to get plenty of sleep and exercise, may seem obvious, the blog also provides helpful advice, such as getting the hard things done first and quarantining yourself from the internet and social media.

Although many people have been working from home for the better part of this year, it’s hard to not feel overwhelmed at times. But don’t lose faith in yourself.  After all, William Shakespeare wrote one of his greatest works—King Lear—while quarantining during the Plague. So, if he can do it, so can you!

Understanding Active and Passive Voice in Writing

TIME’s spell-check always admonishes me whenever I compose a sentence in the passive voice, a warning that is often ignored by me.” — Richard Corliss, film critic for TIME magazine

There are certain writing tips or admonishments that writers hear so often that they’ve become almost cliché:

“Show don’t tell.” “Write every day.” “Use the active, not the passive voice!”

You may have some idea what active and passive voices are, but how do you define them? And more importantly, why does it matter so much, and is that rule an absolute? If we should never use the passive voice, why does it exist?

Here’s what you need to know about writing in active or passive voice.

What is active voice?

Image by Ryan McGuire from Pixabay

The active voice is usually more direct and vigorous than the passive.” — William Strunk, Jr., author of The Elements of Style

Webster’s online dictionary defines active voice as “the voice used to indicate that the grammatical subject of the verb is performing the action or causing the happening denoted by the verb.”

For example: “The girl rode the pony.” The subject of the verb (the girl) is performing the action denoted by the verb (rode).  The sentence does not have to be simple, nor does the verb have to be grand or physical.  Here are some other examples:

Tyler frequently wears colorful Hawaiian shirts.

Mankind took its first steps on the moon in 1969.

Abby wondered if Devin was going to ask her to the winter dance.

In each of these sentences, the subject of the verb performs the verb action. Tyler wears. Neil Armstrong took. Abby wondered.

You’ll hear some writers and writing instructors say to always use the active voice. It’s clear, straightforward, and strong. It gives a sense of authority to your writing.

When in doubt, it’s your best bet for good writing.

What is passive voice?

“Of writing in passive voice: Like the weather, people talk about it, but nobody seems to be doing much about either one.”— Chris Smith, senior lead communications specialist, Entergy Corporation

Webster defines the passive voice as “asserting that the grammatical subject of a verb is subjected to or affected by the action represented by that verb.”

If you switch my example from above to the passive voice it would be, “The pony was ridden by the girl.” Now, the pony is the subject of the verb, but instead of doing the action (riding) it is being affected by that action (was ridden). This leaves the girl, our former subject, dangling  at the end of the sentence as if she has little importance.

The passive voice tends to use forms of the “be” verb such as “is,” “was,” or “has been.” They are one way of keeping an eye out for passive voice in your writing.

Let’s do the other examples:

Colorful Hawaiian shirts are frequently worn by Tyler.

Mankind’s first steps on the moon were taken in 1969.

If Devin was going to ask her to the winter dance was wondered by Abby.

The first two sentences work, but they lack the energy and directness of their active voice counterparts. The third sentence, with poor Abby, becomes muddled and awkward at best, but it’s not Devin’s fault. It’s the writer’s fault.

If you’re still not clear on how to detect passive voice, Rebecca Johnson, vice president for academic affairs at Marine Corps University, came up with a fun little idea when she was a professor of culture and ethics. “If you can add the phrase “by zombies” after the verb, your sentence has passive voice.”

Let’s try it!

“Tyler frequently wears…by zombies.” Nope. That doesn’t work at all.

“Hawaiian shirts are frequently worn…by zombies.” Look at that. You clearly have a sentence in passive voice (and fun, stylish zombies).

“Mankind took…by zombies.” Again, no.

“Mankind’s first steps on the moon were taken…by zombies.” Yikes, that works, and we have a new idea for a bizarre novel.

“Abby wondered…by zombies.” Even though “wondered” is not a vibrant, energetic verb, it’s still active.

“If Devin was going to ask her to the winter ball was wondered…by zombies.” It works, but we’re left wondering why the zombies are so concerned with Abby’s date prospects.

While these examples may seem a little absurd, you might be surprised at how frequently you slip into the passive voice without meaning to do it.

If you’re unsure whether you are writing in passive voice, try using a grammar check device like Grammarly or the Hemingway Editor to find out. It’s easy to fix and, in most cases, you will end up with better writing.

Why does active vs. passive voice matter?

Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay

“Verbs are the most important of all your tools. They push the sentence forward and give it momentum. Active verbs push hard; passive verbs tug fitfully.”— William Zinsser, author of On Writing Well

So now we get to the million-dollar question: “Why does active or passive voice matter so much?” Here are a few things to consider.

How It Affects Readers

Active voice exudes energy and directness. It helps your readers move along with the writing.

Passive voice usually has the opposite effect. It is wordy and indirect, which makes your readers slow down. It also makes your writing more difficult to follow as your readers try to figure out who did what to whom.  As you’d expect, this means that your reader has to work harder, is less engaged, and therefore is more likely to simply stop reading.

No matter what you are writing, be it a thriller novel or a set of instructions for assembling a barbecue grill, you never want your reader to stop reading before the end!

How It Affects Characters

If you write fiction or creative non-fiction, your characters will suffer from too much use of passive voice as well.

Instead of being instigators of action, it will seem as if they are just along for the ride. They’re not doing stuff; instead, stuff is being done by them. This puts the focus on the action and not the character doing it.

How it Represents You as a Writer

Regardless of genre, from novels to ad copy, the word you’ll most frequently see used to describe passive voice in writing is “weak.” Every action comes across as wimpy, sloppy, and even insincere.

As the writer, you may come across the same way. Do you lack confidence in your writing? What are you trying to say?

Just say it instead of backing into it with the passive voice. Your readers will thank you.

Is it ever OK to use passive voice?

Image by dmaxjr0 from Pixabay

Yes! For one, it can break up the rhythm in your writing (in a good way) to add variety. There are also some instances where passive voice makes complete sense.

Let’s say you’re writing a story (true or not) about a boy and his dog. In the early pages, we learn that “Billy found the puppy, whimpering and wet, on the side of the road.” That’s great! We have a book about Billy, and we’ve learned that he found a puppy.

But if you change it:

“The puppy, whimpering and wet, was found on the side of the road by Billy.”

We now have a book about a puppy, and we’ve learned that a boy named Billy found him.

If the focus of your writing is on the recipient of the verb’s action rather than the character doing the verb, the passive voice will keep that focus where you want it. The key is to use it sparingly.

The trick, as with all elements of writing, is to consciously select your approach. Don’t let passive voice simply slip into your writing, or your writing will suffer for it.

Choose when and where you want to utilize it to maximize its effect and strengthen your work. Or, if you’re still in doubt, follow the advice of Stephen King:

“The timid fellow writes The meeting will be held at seven o’clock because that somehow says to him, “Put it this way and people will believe you really know.” Purge this quisling thought! Don’t be a muggle! Throw back your shoulders, stick out your chin, and put that meeting in charge! Write: The meeting’s at seven. There, by God! Don’t you feel better?” — Stephen King in “On Writing”