Voice, Personal Pronouns, Verbs and Style Concerns. What you should know. No one’s personal voice sounds like this:.
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What you should know.
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.
Using a personal voice certainly does not require using the first person, nor does it mean being informal or conversational.
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.
We hold these tenets
of our value system to be
We hold these truths to
Nominalization has a rhetorical
using sound natural, like
something I’d really say?
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.
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
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.
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)
Revise the following passages, paying special attention to ineffective passives, unnecessary nominalizations, and problems of agency. Remember to ask yourself, “Who is doing what?”
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
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.
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.
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.
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
Read the following example out loud:
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.
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