3 Terrible Pieces of Writing Advice You Should Steer Clear Of
Asking someone for writing advice is a lot like asking people to bring food to a potluck. Some people might bring homemade macaroni and cheese that melts in your mouth, but others show up with a store-bought fruitcake.
Writing advice works the same way — depending on who you ask, you might end up with a lot of useful wisdom or useless garbage. If you’re a new writer, you might think you’ve been handed a nugget of gold, but it’s just a shiny rock.
As someone who spent too long collecting those shiny rocks, I’m ready to share all the terrible writing advice I’ve received or seen over the years. Here are three pieces of terrible writing advice you should steer clear of:
You Can’t Use Passive Voice
Whether it’s a novel you’re working on or an article you’re writing for a client, most people will tell you that passive voice is a big no-no.
For anyone struggling to remember the middle school grammar lesson on passive voice, here’s a quick definition.
In English, you’ve got active and passive verbs. When you use an active verb, you’re performing the action. I threw the ball. I ate the pizza. I danced to the song. You laughed at me. In every sentence, the subject is doing something.
With passive voice, something is being done to the subject. The ball was thrown. The pizza was eaten. The song was danced to. I was laughed at. You’re no longer taking action. Something is happening to you.
A lot of experts will agree that active verbs and sentences make more powerful statements. Passive sentences, on the other hand, tend to be less clear to the reader.
As a writer, a lot of people have told me that I should completely eliminate the passive voice from my vocabulary. Some clients have expressed that they didn’t want any passive voice in their articles.
I’ll gladly follow any instructions that a client gives, but when it comes to my own writing, I’m not so harsh. Sometimes, a sentence just sounds better when you use a passive verb — and that’s okay.