My favourite book about writing is called “Write Like Hemingway”. It’s author, R. Andrew Wilson (PhD), shares his love for the great American fiction writer by unpacking all that is elegant, lean and learnable from Hemingway’s books.
Hemingway was the master of the short sentence. He understood the power of brevity. The stronger our point, the fewer words we need to make it.
That is not to say that every sentence we write should be a short one; we would end up sounding like a telegram. As writers, we need to harness the rhythm of words, and change the pace for our readers. We start with a rush, headlong into our topic, telling our story and showing them the point and benefit of our story before they turn the page.
But when we have our reader hooked, we can slow down. I’m not suggesting that we meander, but we can unfold the background to our words, and reveal some of the nuances of our meaning.
Then we need to pick up the pace again. Because the big risk when we slow down is that we write in the passive voice. What is the passive voice? It’s an evil that is taking over the world, and as bloggers, we need to stem its tide.
If you start to yawn and feel bored, you are probably reading (or writing) the passive voice.
Here’s some examples from YourDictionary.com.
Harry ate six shrimp at dinner. (active)
At dinner, six shrimp were eaten by Harry. (passive)
Beautiful giraffes roam the savannah. (active)
The savannah is roamed by beautiful giraffes. (passive)
Sue changed the flat tyre. (active)
The flat tyre was changed by Sue. (passive)
We are going to watch a movie tonight. (active)
A movie is going to be watched by us tonight. (passive)
If you want to be a better writer, write shorter and write active. Start today.
PS: There is a cool app called The Hemingway App. For $10 or so, it’ll tell you when your sentences are too long, passive and when you are using too many adverbs. It’s great.