Welcome to the February edition of the Write your EazyPaper monthly newsletter. Professor Randy Wollf explains how and why you should write in the active voice, and Michael continues his series on Word's Page Layout features.
Using the Active Voice
by Professor Randy
One way to strengthen your writing style is to adopt an active or direct voice. In this article, I will examine the difference between active and passive voice, how to recognize if you are writing with a passive voice, and making sure that you are writing with an active voice.
What is the difference between active and passive voice?
When you use the active voice, the subject of the sentence performs the action. Here is an example:
"John wrote the paper after he made a detailed outline of the main points."
In this example, "John" is the subject and he does a particular action ("wrote"). Now, we could also communicate the same information using a passive or indirect voice:
"The paper was written by John after he made a detailed outline of the main points."
Notice how "John" appears later in the sentence and how he receives the action ("was written by") as opposed to performing the action ("wrote").
Using a passive voice is not usually wrong; however, it is not as succinct or clear as the active voice. Professors often prefer clear and dynamic writing. This kind of direct writing conveys confidence and understanding on the part of the author (and it is easier to read). One notable exception is scientific papers where using a passive voice is often preferred. The reason for this preference is that passive writing allows the author to avoid naming the researchers, which gives scientific writing a more objective feel.
How do you recognize if you are writing with a passive voice?
Often, you can tell that your writing is passive if it contains a form of be (e.g. been, are, is, am, was, were). However, this is not always the case. This is when a good grammar checker is helpful, as it will pick up many passive expressions.
How do you make sure that you are writing with an active voice?
Ask yourself, "Who or what is doing the action in the sentence?" This is the subject of your sentence. Make sure that the subject is at the beginning of your sentence. Now, what is the subject doing in the sentence? This is the verb. If your original sentence was passive, you may find that you will have to change the verb to make it fit with the subject, which is now at the start of your sentence. You should now be able to complete your sentence to capture its original intent.
It may feel awkward at first, but with practice, you will learn how to write with an active voice without even thinking about it. It is a subtle, but powerful way of taking your writing to the next level.
A Turabian Example
by Michael Hu
Last month's newsletter showed you how to insert section breaks, but what do you do with them? Let's start with a real example: follow the Turabian quick-start guide or watch the EazyPaper demo to generate the resulting Turabian template.
Open it and click the Drafts view button (called Normal view in previous versions of Word) at the bottom of the Word window as shown in Figure 1. You can now see section breaks after sections 1 (Blank page), 2 (Table of Contents), and 3 (Bibliography).
Figure 1: Drafts view
Dividing the paper into three sections is necessary because Word configures page numbers on a per section basis: sections 1 (Blank page) has no page number, 2 (Table of Contents) has a roman numeral at the bottom of the page, and 3 (Bibliography) has it at the top right hand corner.
Other Page Layout features are configured on a per section basis too; click the section you want to modify, then choose the Page Layout feature you want to apply as shown in Figure 2:
Figure 2: Page Layout features
The other sections remain unaffected, allowing you to configure page margins, orientation, size, columns, watermark, color and borders on a per section basis. If you need to configure these settings on a per page basis, simply insert a section break after every page.
In the next newsletter, we'll extend this per section formatting principle to headers and footers.