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Thursday, 16 April 2009

Using the Active Voice for Stronger Writing

One of the most frequently-heard pieces of advice for writers is to use the active voice instead of the passive voice. What does this mean? In this article we show you how to identify the passive voice, how to change it to the active voice, and when you should leave things in the passive voice.

Quick Tip 1

Getaway and Get Away

"Getaway" is a noun. When you escape, you make your getaway. A location can also be a getaway.

"Get away" is a verb and a modifier. To get away from something or someone is to move away or to escape.

Example: If the robbers get away from the police, they will make their getaway.

Example: Get away from the dog! He bites!

Example: We hope to get away to the cabin this summer. It is our summer getaway.

Quick Tip 2

Who's and Whose

"Who's" means "who is." The apostrophe is there because it is a contraction. The apostrophe does not indicate possession.

Example: Who is there? Who's there?

"Whose" means "belonging to whom." It indicates possession without using an apostrophe.

Example: Whose suitcase is this?

Don't let the apostrophe confuse you. You cannot use "who's" to ask who something belongs to.

Common error: Who's suitcase is this? - Incorrect!

Introduction to English Grammar

English grammar is a huge subject, and one that often stumps both native and non-native speakers alike. In this in-depth guide we look at the vast field of English grammar and pick out some points to help you avoid common pitfalls in your writing.

Quick Tip 1

Lay and Lie

To lay is to put something down. Lay down your pen. The verb must act on another object.

To lie is to recline. Lie down on the couch. I will lie in bed until noon.

The past tense of "lay" is "laid." After the test I laid down my pen.

Unfortunately, the past tense of "lie" is "lay," which can cause confusion.
Yesterday I lay on the couch all afternoon.

Quick Tip 2

Then and Than

"Then" always indicates a relationship in time. Something happened, and then something else happened after that. When you use "if" with "then" to show a cause-and-effect relationship, the effect still comes after the cause. For example, "If you help me, then I will be grateful."

"Than" is used for comparisons. Brazil is bigger than Portugal. Mice are smaller than cats. Chess is more complex than checkers. Even when talking about time, use "than" for comparisons. Autumn is later than summer.