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The Best Writing Advice I Ever Received

The Best Writing Advice I Ever Received

And I still struggle with it every time I write.

The following advice came from a veteran newspaper reporter and publisher named Jack Powers. His name pretty much said it all, old school, tough, and straight to the point.

In his gruff and throaty voice, he taught how to write straight news with no fillers or preservatives. The cracks around his eyes spoke volumes about witnessing decades of madness and mayhem and then writing about it.

I admired the guy, realizing I was looking at the type of hard-boiled reporter I’m not sure they make anymore. He was a revered member of that “Greatest Generation” who grew up during the depression and then won World War II.

So, what is this advice?

We’ll, rather than be boring and just spill the beans, here’s a few examples…

  • Before the advice: The Roadrunner was chased by Wile E. Coyote.
  • After the advice: Wile E. Coyote chased the Roadrunner.

It’s really simple, and many have heard it but don’t realize its impact: use the active voice.

“What’s that, again?” you might ask.

Active voice is when the subject does the acting (Coyote chases the Roadrunner), which makes sentences more “action-packed.”

Passive voice, is when the subject is acted on by the verb. (The Roadrunner was chased by Coyote). Not the same impact…

It’s worth mentioning though, that there are times where using the passive voice is preferred, like the headline of this article:

  • Passive: The Best Writing Advice I ever Received
  • Active: I Received the Best-Ever Writing Advice.

The first one just sounds more like a headline. The reason it works is because sometimes we want to emphasize the action rather than the actor.

But when you’re in the nitty-gritty action in a novel or making your point in a story, go full-out active.

Active voice puts the reader in the story and makes them feel the punch of every paragraph, the hook of every plot. It’s probably the first step to take after writing a rough draft.

I hope this tip makes your next piece more “active.”