This month’s Bitmob Writing Challenge, Passive Aggression, received a lot of acclaim from longtime Bitmobbers. The prompt asks writers to weed out passive voice, a wordy style of writing that is easy to use but a chore to read.
I have only received one actual response, however. Since I believe squashing dull sentence structure is important, I’m extending the deadline one week to Sunday, August 7th.
To read the original article, click here. Here are the rules:
1. Select any article you have written or will write for Bitmob. In this case, an older article may be better than a newer one because you will notice mistakes that you missed back when you first wrote it. This is also a great chance to repost an article that you felt should have reached the front page or Spotlight. You can also partner with someone else if you want to.
2. Hunt down and find these calling cards of dull writing.
- Rewrite all of the sentences that use passive-voice construction (if any). Passive sentences abandon the traditional "subject-verb-object" word order. Changing this format can add variety to your voice but also robs your sentence of action. Passive-voice tip-offs include the word "by" and using the passive verb tense (to be + verb).
Bad: Motion control is used in unique ways by the Nintendo Wii.
Good: The Nintendo Wii uses motion control in unique ways.
- Get rid of any instances of the phrase "there is" or "there are." This error often combines passive tense with the addition of the dull, nebulous "there."
Bad: There are 250 Golden Bananas for masochists to collect in Donkey Kong 64.
Good: Masochists will hate themselves as they collect all 250 Golden Bananas in Donkey Kong 64.
- Identify and delete needless words like "quite a few" and "the fact that." A few writers are famous for their verbose sentences that sometimes span entire pages. You probably aren't one of those, so it's more likely that long sentences will make your audience fall asleep. Trim useless words and phrases like "rather" and "the reason why is that," which really don't saying anything anyway. Channel your inner Ernest Hemingway and kill them dead.
Bad: I can assure you that being able to trip in Super Smash Bros. Brawl is just stupid.
Good: Tripping in Super Smash Bros. Brawl is stupid.
- Eliminate any adverbs and change the verbs they modify so that they are stronger. If you didn't use any adverbs, improve on at least three verbs. (This is the combination of two rules.) While adverbs have their uses, they often act as a crutch for an unimaginative verb. I’ve had writing teachers tell me to never use adverbs, so as an exercise crank out verbs that sell your points without going into hyperbole.
Bad: Cloud’s Omnislash lets him quickly and rapidly cut his opponent.
Good: Cloud’s Omnislash lets him slice his opponent into cold cuts.
3. Post the article in the following format:
- Page 1: The edited article.
- Page 2: The original article or draft with the sections that you changed in bold. Afterwards, write a 100-200 word explanation about how you fixed your passive-voice problems and what bad habits you've identified.
4. Post the article with "Bitmob Writing Challenge" in the tags.
One could keep these tips in mind and not complete the challenge, and that helps regardless of what one writes about. True improvement, however, doesn’t happen until you analyze your own habits, and this prompt is a way to force yourself to do so.