Monthly Archives: May 2012

Encore: Passive Voice – Show, Don’t Tell

This is an encore presentation of one of my more popular posts.

Okay, I admit it.  English Grammar is not my strong point. For me, seventh grade – ‘The Grammar Year’ – was over fifty years ago!  I didn’t do very well in English that year!

Grammar is why modern word processors are great.  You see all your mistakes – in real-time.  I don’t know about other word processors, but Microsoft Word™ seems to have a ‘Passive Voice’ fetish.

If I had to rate the grammatical errors in my writing, ‘Passive Voice’ would be at or close to the top of the list. When I’m typing, I see the offending words appear on the screen, with a ‘green underline’ (Word’s way of telling you that you’ve made a mistake).

Oh boy!  What did I do wrong this time? 

So, I right-click on the underlined words, and there it is … again!

“Passive Voice (consider revising)”

For the next few moments, I experiment with different options until the ‘green underline’ goes away, but sometimes, I WANT the ‘Passive Voice,’ … or at least I think I do.  The paragraph works better with the passive sentence structure … but Word says it’s wrong.  Okay, I’m confused … and frustrated.

So, I decided that since I have this ongoing difficulty with ‘Passive Voice,’ maybe now is the time to research it.  Perhaps, with a little education, I can teach myself to not do it any more (and save myself revision time).

For authors, the ‘Active Voice’ sentences often do a better job of ‘show, don’t tell,’ but not always. This chart illustrates the problem.  The same words, written in different ways, can have entirely different meanings.

Wikipedia describes Passive Voice as “… a grammatical construction (a “voice”) in which the subject of a sentence or clause denotes the recipient of the action rather than the performer (the agent). The English passive voice is formed with an auxiliary verb (usually, but not always: be, was, get, are, or has, among others) plus a participle (usually the past participle) of a transitive verb.”

Hey, that’s fine if you have a degree in English and you remember what ‘auxiliary verbs,’ ‘participles,’ ‘past participles,’and ‘transitive verbs’ are!

Let’s try this another way, with examples.

From the chart above: “The cake is being baked by Mike” is in the Passive Voice sentence. The subject is the CAKE and it’s affected by the ‘being baked’ action of the verb.  The Active Voice sentence is: “Mike is baking a cake” in which the subject signifies the agent, or doer, Mike.  So passive = the cake, and active = Mike.

Another way of saying this is that Passive Voice is used when the focus is on the action. Who or what is performing the action isn’t important, or even known.  Example: “My house was painted last week.”  The Active Voice indicates, in this case, who or what did the painting.  “John painted my house last week.”  “ABC Contracting painted my house last week.”  Here, it’s passive = painted, and active = John or ABC Contracting.

Other examples:

  • Active: “I fixed the leaky faucet on the sink.”  (To say what the subject [I] did)
  • Passive: “The leaky faucet is being fixed.”  (To say what happens to things [the faucet] or people, or, to say what is done to them)
  • Passive: “The faucet was fixed by XYZ Plumbing yesterday.”  (The action [the faucet being fixed] is more important than who did it)
  • Passive: “The faucets were made in Texas.”  (When we don’t know who [made the faucets] did the action)

English, with it’s multi-lingual components, is a difficult language, even for native speakers/writers!  However, the bottom line is that passive sentences are not necessarily WRONG, but a sentence analysis is needed.  What was your intent for the sentence? What did you want to say? Was it about the action, or the person/thing? Word the sentence according to your intent, and don’t let the ‘green underline’ mess with your head!  (Whew! What a relief!)

There are many more rules about Active and Passive Voices that apply to more complex sentence structures.

  • Would you like to know more about the Active and Passive Voices?

Please do me a quick favor and pop over to Facebook and ‘LIKE’ my page –  It only takes a second …  Thanks so much!!

Happy Writing,


PS: Please take a few minutes to read the  Wedding Chapter – Final  from my soon-to-be-published adult historical romance (2012) ‘Janelle’s Time.’  You’ll meet Richard and Janelle Grayson, the newlyweds, AND, meet Duke Logan Conor (he crashes the wedding) from my upcoming book, ‘Logan’s Time.’

The TIME Series – by Dayna Leigh Cheser
Janelle’s Time – Release: 2012
Moria’s Time – WIP – NaNoWriMo Project, 2011 Winner
Adelle’s Time – Planned
Logan’s Time – WIP
Clarissa’s Time – Planned


APW: DIY Interviews – Deanna Nowadnick

Name: Deanna Nowadnick

Email Address:

What is your blog URL?

What is your website URL?

What is the contact information you are willing to share?
Twitter: @DeannaNowadnick

Where and/or when were you born?
Tacoma, WA on August 6, 1954

What schools did you attend? 
What was your course of study?

I graduated Pacific Lutheran University in 1976 with a degree in Education. My major was English.

When and how did you discover you wanted to be a writer/author?
I didn’t plan to be a writer. Even though I majored in English in college, I never enjoyed writing assignments. I actually think it had more to do with being told what to write, rather than the writing itself.

‘Fruit of My Spirit’ is my first book. I really didn’t intend to write a book. I just wanted my sons, Kyle and Kevin, to know how I met their father, but one chapter became two chapters and then two chapter became three …  Finally I said to anyone who would listen, “I think I wrote a book!”

Before she died, my mom had asked me to write a book. At the time my boys were very small, and the notion of writing was unfathomable. I couldn’t get a grocery list put together!

Before my father died, he reminded me that mom had wanted me to write a book. At the time the boys were in college, and the notion of writing was unfathomable. Writers write books.

Last year I wrote a book. My boys were now adults and I’d run out of excuses. I was also at an age when I could pause and reflect.

Are you a published author? Yes

Please list your published material, with dates?
Fruit of My Spirit: Reframing Life in God’s Grace (2012)

If these materials are books, are they available, and from where?
Yes, the book is available on Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

Please tell about your first publication – what was it, when, how you felt when it happened, etc.
Fruit of My Spirit is a memoir of short stories. What started as one story for my sons about how I met their father quickly became a much larger story about God’s love and faithfulness.

Please tell about the most memorable moment in your  career.
I have to admit that divine gratitude gave way to sheer joy and excitement when I held the first copy of my book. I carried it with me from room to room. I thumbed the pages. I learned that there is nothing as cathartic as sharing our experiences in writing. Words, sentences, and paragraphs give order and meaning to so many things that we throw into our mental box of memories.

Have you won any awards? If yes, which award(s) and when?
I am a debut author and no writing awards yet 🙂
While working as an office assistant for a financial adviser, I received our company’s national award for ‘Sales Assistant of the Year.’ After over 20 years in the field of personal finance, the award my peers bestowed on me was thrilling.

What genre do you most often write?
Spirituality, Inspirational

Who are the authors who most influenced your writing career?
I have many authors who inspire, encourage, and entertain me. Anne Lamontt gave me the courage to write and to keep writing. Jane Austen warms my heart. Beth Moore feeds my soul and nurtures my faith. Steig Larsson wow’s me.

And honorable mention has to go to Carolyn Keene who gave a young girl her first real love of reading. In fourth grade I really just wanted to grow up and be Nancy Drew.

Have you mentored an aspiring writer?  Would you mentor, if the opportunity arose?
I would gladly mentor

What would you tell an aspiring writer who asks you for assistance?
I think of Anne Lamott’s book, Bird by Bird in which she tells of the encouragement given to her brother as a writing assignment loomed. Her father’s words were, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.” I’ve often heard people say, “I could never write a book.” Not long ago I would have replied the same. Fruit of My Spirit began as a single story. That story led to the next story. We all have stories to tell. Just take it story by story.

Please tell about your other community activities.
My “day job” is with ‘The Planner’s Edge,’ a financial advisory firm in Washington State. The boss and I have been together for 22 years. I have thoroughly enjoyed being part of his practice and working with his clients. And since I telecommute, I have even more time to write!

When not working or writing, I knit and play the violin.

What is the name of your current project?
Fruit of My Spirit: Reframing Life in God’s Grace

What is the expected release date?
Fruit of My Spirit,’ was released this past January (2012).  

What is the genre?
Spirituality, Inspirational

Is this work a stand-alone or part of a series?

Do you have any project(s) planned for the future? Yes

Please provide some details of the project.
I’m working on Book 2 now. Signs in Life: Meeting God at the Corner of Grace and Mercy tells of those times when God has come alongside and guided, directed and turned me. The book is another collection of short stories, this time recounting when God has met me at life’s crossroads, when I’ve been “on point” with God, not because of anything I’ve done, but because a loving, gracious, merciful God has been there for me time after time, again and again.

What is the anticipated release date?
‘Signs in Life,’ is due out next year (2013).

We’d like to thank Deanna Nowadnick for her DIY Interview. You can do your own interview by just checking out the details in the left column of this blog.

Don’t miss the next ‘Janelle’s Time’ excerpt on Monday, May  14th when Richard and Janelle, out riding with Richard’s brother, Sinjin, encounter Nick, Lord Statler.  Nick reveals a bit too much. Could this become a life-and-death situation?

Happy Writing,


PS: Please take a few minutes to read the  Wedding Chapter – Final  from my soon-to-be-published adult historical romance (2012) ‘Janelle’s Time.’  You’ll meet Richard and Janelle Grayson, the newlyweds, AND, meet Duke Logan Conor (he crashes the wedding) from my upcoming book, ‘Logan’s Time.’

The TIME Series – by Dayna Leigh Cheser
Janelle’s Time – Release: 2012
Moria’s Time – WIP – NaNoWriMo Project, 2011 Winner
Adelle’s Time – Planned
Logan’s Time – WIP
Clarissa’s Time – Planned

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