Thoughts About Writing

You won’t get very far in just about any writing review before you hear of something called the passive voice. This grammatical construction came to mind when I saw a sign on a building recently that read, This structure is scheduled for demolition. We usually expect the subject of a sentence to be doing something, but the subject of this sentence, structure, is not doing anything at all; it is clear, in fact, that the purpose of the statement is just the reverse, to assert that something will happen to the subject. The subject is passive, not active, or to
Writers know the value of small things. What many of us might think to be inconsequential detail—a comma here or a few words there, for example—can make all the difference in reproducing the mental picture we give to someone else to see what we have perceived and felt. A student of mine recently wrote a short story, only some six pages, he entitled “The Pilgrim.” It introduces the unexpected life of a homeless man in a large city, and holds before us the idea that unlooked-for insights—and their very real consequences—lie all around us, often in the unlikeliest of encounters,
In a recent post (What Happened When), we looked at the difference between the simple past and present perfect tenses. We saw that the simple past points to the occurrence of an action, and the present perfect to an occurrence and its consequences. So we say that the sun rose versus the sun has risen, the first bringing our attention simply to the event in itself, the second suggesting that what happened has produced new and present results: the sun has risen, so it’s time to get going. But how are we to understand the arrangement of time in a

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