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Improving Voice with Specifics. Tony Hawk could have written: “My parents didn’t discourage me even when I was broke.” Instead, he wrote:

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improving voice with specifics
Improving Voice with Specifics
  • Tony Hawk could have written:

“My parents didn’t discourage me even when I was broke.”

  • Instead, he wrote:

“My parents never once questioned the practicality behind my passion, even when I had to scrape together gas money and regarded dinner at Taco Bell as a big night out.”

concrete vs abstract nouns
Concrete vs. Abstract Nouns
  • Sometimes present a big idea as a specific and allow the reader to generalize.
  • The classical economist Adam Smith could have said: It is the economic self-interest of others, not their good-heartedness, that assures us we will get the products we need.
  • Instead he chose the less abstract, more specific: It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.
more examples
More Examples
  • Not: (at the beginning of World War I) It will be a long time before Europe recovers from this tragedy.
  • But: The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our time. –Sir Edward Grey, British foreign secretary
  • Not: Lost time is never found again. –Folk saying
  • But: Hours spent watching “Gilligan’s Island” reruns cannot be replayed in prime time.
telling paragraph
Telling Paragraph
  • Each morning I ride the bus to school. I wait along with the other people who ride my bus. Sometimes the bus is late and we get angry. Some guys start fights and stuff just to have something to do. I’m always glad when the bus finally comes.
showing paragraph
Showing Paragraph
  • A bus arrived. It discharged its passengers, closed its doors with a hiss and disappeared over the crest of a hill. Not one of the people waiting at the bus stop had attempted to board. One woman wore a sweater that was too small, a long skirt, white sweater socks, and house slippers. One man was in his undershirt. Another man wore shoes with the shoes cut out, a soiled blue serge jacket and …
showing paragraph1
Showing Paragraph
  • … brown pants. There was something wrong with these people. They made faces. A mouth smiled at nothing and unsmiled, smiled and unsmiled. A head shook in vehement denial. Most of them carried brown paper bags rolled tight against their stomachs.

Doctorow , E.L. The Book of Daniel. New York: Random House, 1971. Print.

trying it out
Trying It Out
  • The principal is in a bad mood today.
  • Use showing details – what does “a bad mood” look like? How do we know when someone’s in a bad mood?
  • Mumbling under her breath, the principal brushed past us in the hall without offering even the slightest nod when we greeted her.
trying it out1
Trying It Out
  • Molly is a wonderful person.
  • Use a list of specific examples.
  • Always there when anyone needs her, Molly is the first to arrive with a casserole when someone is sick, the first to send a note of encouragement to those who are troubled, the first to offer a hug to anyone -- man, woman, or child -- at anytime.
trying it out2
Trying It Out
  • Giving is better than receiving.
  • Extending a bottle of water to a thirsty soul reaps a better reward than popping open the finest bottle of champagne.
  • “Giving” = Extending a bottle of water to a thirsty soul
  • “Receiving” = popping open the finest bottle of champagne
select any 3 of the blah sentences below and revise them to improve voice by adding specifics
Select any 3 of the “blah” sentences below and revise them to improve voice by adding specifics.

1. My brother is very talented.

2. When my dog died, I felt miserable.

3. Ability is of little account without opportunity.

4. We shouldn’t be scared to be ourselves.

5. I felt nervous before I performed.

6. We should think of others before ourselves.

7. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

8. School is boring.

9. The singer had to work really hard to get to where she was.

10. Math, for me, is very difficult.