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Voice, Personal Pronouns, Verbs and Style Concerns. What you should know. No one’s personal voice sounds like this:.

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no one s personal voice sounds like this
No one’s personal voice sounds like this:

Utilizing a personal voice is not contingent upon the adoption of the first person point of view in one’s writing, nor is it necessarily to be regarded as synonymous with a writing style that could be termed informal or conversational.

People don’t talk that way, and writers don’t write that way. But inexperienced writers sometimes do.

Revision

Using a personal voice certainly does not require using the first person, nor does it mean being informal or conversational.

in spite of the first person point of view the use of i there s nothing personal in those lines
In spite of the first person point of view—the use of I—there’s nothing “personal” in those lines.

It has long been a tenet of my value system that as a capable individual, I have a social and moral duty to contribute to the improvement of the society in which I live.

a personal voice does not of course preclude the use of big words or uncommon words
A personal voice does not, of course, preclude the use of big words or uncommon words.

We hold these tenets

of our value system to be

self-evident.

We hold these truths to

be self-evident.

slide5
Another form of pretentious diction is when we rob verbs of their verbness by turning them into nouns, a process called nominalization:
  • To make a discovery instead of to discover
  • To conduct an investigation instead of to investigate
  • To make an accusation instead of to accuse

Nominalization has a rhetorical

effect.

your personal voice
Your Personal Voice
  • Does the language I’m

using sound natural, like

something I’d really say?

  • Using a personal voice certainly does not require using the first person, nor does it mean being informal or conversational.
  • Rather, “personal” in this sense means “natural,” language that a real person would use.
voice
Voice
  • When one sees the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time, the sight is simply breathtaking.

The problem that one creates is obvious to the ear: The sentence sounds formal and British, like something Prince Charles would say. In American-English, we use you to convey the third-person indefinite sense. You is technically the second person, but the meaning is closer to the indefinite third-person one.

  • When you see the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time…
voice1
Voice

Most of the rooms were evidently used for storage of anthropological items, collected from decades to more than a century ago. You had the sense of a museum of the second order, in which were stored not so much materials that might be of interest as materials that had once been of interest. You could feel the presence of nineteenth-century museum directors engaged in their frock coats….

Brocas’s Brain by Carl Sagan

slide9

In another passage from A Brief History of Time, Hawking uses mainly the second person, but in one sentence he switches to the first with we and our:

Any physical theory is always provisional, in the sense that it is only a hypothesis: you can never prove it. No matter how many times the results of experiments agree with some theory, you can never be sure that the next time the result will not contradict the theory. On the other hand, you can disprove a theory by finding even a single observation that disagrees with the predictions of the theory….Each time new experiments are observed to agree with the predictions the theory survives, and our confidence it is increased; but if ever a new observation is found to disagree, we have to abandon or modify the theory. At least that is what is supposed to happen, but you can always question the competence of the person who carried out the observation.

revise the following passage to reflect today s concerns about sexism in language
Revise the following passage to reflect today’s concerns about sexism in language.

Of all born creatures, man is the only one that cannot live by bread alone. He lives as much by symbols as by sense report, in a realm compounded of tangible things and virtual images, of actual events and ominous portents, always between fact and fiction. For he sees not only actualities, but meanings. He has, indeed, all the impulses and interests of animal nature; he eats, sleeps, mates, seeks comfort and safety, flees pain, falls sick and dies, just as cats and bears and fishes and butterflies do. But he has something more in his repertoire, too—he has laws and religions, theories and dogmas, because he lives not only through sense but through symbols. That is the special asset of his mind, which makes him the master of earth and all its progeny.

Susanne K. Langer, “The Prince of Creation,” Fortune (January 1944)

choosing verbs
Choosing Verbs
  • Poets are careful to budget their words.
  • Poets budget their words carefully.
  • The precise verb isn’t always available when you need it.
  • The precise verb doesn’t always come to mind when you need it.
  • As a writer, you must be aware of your own inappropriate words.
  • As a writer, you must learn to spot your own inappropriate words.
slide12
Revise the following passage, avoiding both the passive and the first person. Think about agent as subject.
  • The woods in the morning seemed both peaceful and lively. Birds could be heard in the pines and oaks, staking out their territory. Squirrels could be seen scampering across the leaves that covered the forest floor, while in the branches above, the new leaves of the birches and maples were outlined by the sun’s rays. The leaves, too, could be heard, rustling to the rhythm of the wind.
slide13

Revise the following passages, paying special attention to ineffective passives, unnecessary nominalizations, and problems of agency. Remember to ask yourself, “Who is doing what?”

  • The measurement of the Earth’s fragile ozone layer was one of the important missions undertaken by the crew of the space shuttle Atlantis. The shuttle was launched in October of 1994. The mission lasted ten days. Humans are put at greater risk of skin cancer, cataracts, and other ailments because of overexposure to ultraviolet radiation. Crops can also be spoiled and underwater food sources devastated as a result of too much direct sunlight. A vast ozone hole over Antarctica from September to December every year is particularly worrisome to scientists.
the elephants of style by bill walsh
The Elephants of Style by Bill Walsh
  • Today, we have computers and italics. Underlining is to typed and handwritten papers what italics are to more formal publishing.
  • Also, remember that you are in the United States. In American English, commas and periods adjacent to quotation marks go inside the quotation marks. Semicolons and colons go outside.
  • Internet:
  • Wrong: Bill Walsh runs a Web site called TheSlot.com.
  • Right: Bill Walsh runs a Web site called The Slot (www.theslot.com).
  • Lies your English teacher told you:
    • Never split an infinitive.
    • Never end a sentence with a preposition.
    • Never begin a sentence with a conjunction.
    • Never use the passive voice.
    • Never write in the first person.
    • Never address the reader directly.
slide15
Two Viewpoints on ClichésNever use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print. George Orwell
  • Actually we could not avoid the use of cliché even if we wanted to. The very word cliché is in a sense cliché—its original meaning is stereotype.
  • Steve Coll, managing editor of the Washington Post, has described clichés as first-draft placeholders. You know the point you’re tying to make, so you reach for the handiest way of making that point. Later, you back and substitute a better way of saying what you want to say.
  • One option is to stick with the cliché. Another option is to give the cliché a twist: If you’re going to use a cliché, it’s a good idea to let readers know that you know it’s a cliché, and one way to do that is by having some fun with it:

lay of the land

safe than sorry salt of the earth scared stiff scared to death screaming meemies senses reel set the record straight

the final analysis the real mccoy the same old story these things happen third time's the charm this day and age this point in time

clich d introductions a clich can be more of a phrase it can be an approach
Clichéd introductions. A cliché can be more of a phrase, it can be an approach.
  • The Dictionary Definition.
  • Webster’s Dictionary defines “here” as “one that shows….
  • Welcome to the World Of
  • Dirty plates piled as high as the eye can see… Welcome to the world of..
  • Not Alone
  • Michelle Goings started seeing unfamiliar charges on her Visa card last summer…Goings is not alone.
  • The Term Paper
  • Throughout history, man has struggled with the problem of finding enough food to it…
  • The Wasted Line
  • Here we go again…
  • It happens every time…
  • No, It’s Not
  • When Charles Dickens wrote, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” he was undoubtedly thinking of the Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights.
  • No he wasn’t.
  • The Literary Allusion
  • The Class 2 state girls’ basketball tournament has been a tale of two cities.
slide17
-Man, Oh, -Man

Terms ending in –man were once thought to be gender-neutral. Chairman spokesman, man meant “man” not in the sense of “you’re a woman, I’m a man—but in the general sense of throughout history man has…”

Businessman is clearly inappropriate as a term for a woman. Listen to the sound difference. Use business owner or executive.

Thus, chairman survives. Spokesman is in between.

slide18

The –ess MessPoetess comedienne are considered ridiculous today.Waitress is under siege by proponents of waitron and waitstaff, but for now it is respectable. Hostess is fine for a woman throwing a party, but Oprah is a talk-show host.Masseuse and chanteuse survive because they come from French, a language in which all nouns have gender.

le

slide19
The personal pronoun: If I say each authority has his opinion, I am excluding Barbara Wallraff and so on. Each authority has her opinion sounds patronizing.

Each authority has their opinion, which applies a plural pronoun to a singular antecedent will have many people reaching for the dunce cap, but it is the best of the imperfect solutions and most likely, will eventually become standard.

sentence control and variety
Sentence control and variety
  • They past a burned-out and gutted steel mill the decimated regiment of Home guards stumbled thorough a field of craters bombs had dug. Water filled the craters, rough-skinned gray frogs leaped as beating hearts, they had deserted the bodies of warring men. They now roamed the deserted landscape Ivan found the sudden leaps of so many hearts out of the gray earth unsettling. He could not see any of them, they were in the air, it seemed to him that the earth was spitting up useless hearts, and swallowing them back into mud.
  • What is occurring in terms of sentence structure in the above scene?
  • Rewrite the paragraph.
slide21
Original work:

Past a burned-out and gutted steel mill, the decimated regiment of Home guards stumbled through a field of craters that bombs had dug. Water filled the craters, out of which rough-skinned gray frogs leaped as beating hearts that had deserted the bodies of warring men and now roamed the doomed landscape. Ivan found the sudden leaps of so many hearts out of the gray earth unsettling. He could not see any of them, until they were in the air, so that it seemed to him that the earth was spitting up useless hearts and swallowing them back into the mud. “Bread” by Josip Novakovich

sentence variety is essential to good writing
Sentence variety is essential to good writing.

Read the following example out loud:

  • I’ll start with a scene on a train in western Slovonia. It was hot. I closed the window. I am not superstitious about drafts. Many people are. Dandelion seeds floated in. All sorts of pollens and other emissaries of the wild fields filled the air with smells of chamomile, menthol, and other teas. It could have been pleasant. I had a cold. I sneezed and squinted. The countryside seemed mostly abandoned.
  • What type of sentence structure does the above paragraph rely on? How does the flow of language sound?
slide23
I’ll start with a scene on a train in western Slovonia where it was hot. I closed the window not because I am superstitious about drafts. Dandelion seeds floated in as all sorts of pollens and other emissaries of the wild fields filled the air with smells of chamomile, menthol, and other teas. It could have been pleasant if I hadn’t had a cold. I sneezed and squinted while outside the countryside seemed mostly abandoned.

What type of sentence structure does the above paragraph rely on? Describe the flow of language.

Variety is necessary. Revise the above paragraph to improve the flow of language.

slide24
The original work:

I’ll start with a scene on a train in western Slavonia. (SS) Though it was hot, I closed the window (CX). Not that I am superstitious against drafts as many of our people are (CX). Dandelion seeds floated in, like dry snowflakes, and all sorts of pollens and other emissaries of the wild fields filled the air with smells of chamomile, menthol, and other teas (CP). It would have been pleasant if I hadn’t had a cold that made me sneeze and squint (CX). The countryside seemed mostly abandoned. (SS)

“Sheepskin” by Josip Novakovich

SS = simple sentence

CX= complex sentence

CP= compound sentence