Get your voice moving


Despite the fact that I use to extend my hand to help out foreign friends who just needed a leg up in terms of their English grammar or spelling, I’m more and more aware these days that my own writing isn’t particularly great and I would probably benefit more from English lessons more than they would. The length of that sentence alone and its ambiguity simply proves my point.

When I was much younger, my mum spent a lot of time trying to make me learn English grammar through reading and exercises. My parents were always worried about my English-as-a-second-language issue, despite me never actually having too much of that issue. I attempted to learn about objects, verbs, pronouns and the like with various dry books instead of the novels I wanted to read.

However this knowledge never stuck or made sense to me, same as how I would not be able to pick the same out in Chinese - which is probably a good thing that I don’t use that language professionally. Language to me just is as I’ve grown up speaking it, rather than learning it in school as a structuring thing - instead it’s alive. Perhaps that’s why I have trouble picking up/maintaining a third language and trouble learning hanzi.

Why the renewed doubt? The latest feedback comes from reviewers of content I wrote for a client’s course, telling me that I needed to use active voice rather than passive voice, and that the content that I wrote was too “fluffy”. The content wasn’t engaging enough, they said. I proceeded to rewrite the full 27 pages of content again. What even is active voice?, I asked. I got a bunch of examples without understanding them:

In most English sentences with an action verb, the subject performs the action denoted by the verb.

These examples show that the subject is doing the verb's action.
The man must have eaten five hamburgers.
→ The man (subject) is doing the eating (verb).

Marilyn mailed the letter.
Marilyn (subject) is doing the mailing (verb).

Colorful parrots live in the rainforests.
Parrots (subject) are doing the living (verb).


Because the subject does or "acts upon" the verb in such sentences, the sentences are said to be in the active voice.

It makes some sense, yet not at all. I’m probably going to need a while to digest this - in the meantime, I’m just going to attempt to be as concise as possible.