My writer friends and I joke a lot about a beta-read rejection form. In truth, I have more of a beta-reader indemnity clause. It reads something like this. "Be forewarned, grammar is not my forte. I will correct any glaring errors I see, but will undoubtedly miss more than I catch.” To be honest, Im actually quite adept at grammar; I just hate to read for it. See, I’m the daughter of a copy-editor who took great pleasure in schooling her children on their grammar mistakes. Mom would hand me back an essay (or my WIP as the case is today) with little asterisks in the margin with a note telling me to go find the error in the sentence.
Plus I’m from Boston, and we are all “whicked smhart” up here!”
Yesterday I had the privilege of reading a third round of edits for a talented, amazingly-creative writer friend of mine. The edited copy had already been marked up by another critique partner. That particular critique partner, after a few choice phrases like “this project needs a lot of work,” and “you are going about this all wrong,” and “trust me, I am a bit of an expert at this,” went to town on my friend – specifically her use of passive voice.
I held my tongue for the last two critiques, but yesterday I let her other critique partner have it. If she wants to condemn my friend's book for grammar errors, then she should at least take the time to get it right! I included charts, graphs, and even solicited the advice of my copy-editor mother to make my case. It was a little over the top, even by my snarky standards, but I was pissed – that whole cross me or mine protective instinct kicking in.
A noun of direct address does need a comma. A hyphen is used to connect two words that form a single-thought adjective. And grAy is the traditional spelling of the color in America. I could stomach all that; but, when the faux Grammar-Goddess instructed my writer friend to bring her passive-voice sentences into active voice, I lost it. I totally agree that active voice is a more effective choice for our writing. Problem is, last time I checked, phrases like I heard, I sang, or I thought aren’t written in passive voice. They’re active-voice, past-tense! HUGE DIFFERENCE!!!
So thank you for listening to my rant. I don’t do it often, and I promise not to do it again for at least a couple of weeks. I will leave with one of my charts – one created by me and approved my copy-editor Mom!
Active Voice Passive Voice
Present I sang It is being sung (by someone)
Past I sing It was sung (by someone)
Future I will sing It will be swung (by someone)