Weekly Excerpt From: GRAMMAR FOR PEOPLE WHO HATE RULES by Kathleen A. Watson

Active vs. Passive Voice:
Keep Your Writing Lively and Readable

Active voice is more lively and easier to read. It makes clear who has done — or should do — something. It prevents wordy, convoluted sentences.

In active voice, the subject of the sentence clearly is the doer of the action. In passive voice, the doer of the action is identified in an indirect way.

active: I am holding the baby.
passive: The baby is being held by me.

active: Rob tromped on the gas as his car sped away.
passive: The gas was tromped on by Rob as his car sped away.

active: Jim is considering what action to take.
passive: What action to take is being considered by Jim.

Passive voice isn’t always wrong. It’s used appropriately in scientific writing, which should sound objective and where the action is more important than who does it, and in crime reports, when authorities don’t know the doer.

Scientific passive:

  • The subjects of the study were interviewed by each interviewer.
  • The results have been replicated by a new group of researchers.

Crime report passive:

  • The branch bank was robbed sometime between 3 and 4:40 a.m.
  • The woman was stabbed as she approached her car.

Note the presence of some form of the verb to be in all passive examples (is, am, are, was, were, have/has been): … baby is being held … gas pedal was tromped on … action is being considered … subjects were interviewed by … results have been replicated … branch bank was robbed … woman was stabbed …

Government documents can get wordy, and passive voice sometimes is the culprit.

passive: The following information must be included in the application for it to be considered complete.
active: You must include the following information in your application.

passive: Regulations have been proposed by the EPA.
active: The EPA has proposed regulations.

  • Killer Tip: Convert the twisted, dull-sounding construction of passive voice to active by using a subject-verb-object sequence and avoiding forms
    of the verb to be.

Writing and grammar expert Kathleen Watson, fondly known as The Ruthless Editor, has nearly three decades of experience in both corporate and academic worlds. She has taught business people how to fine-tune their communication style, college students how to strengthen their writing, and Ph.D. candidates how to polish their dissertations. Kathy also has experience as a fiction and nonfiction book copy editor, working with a mix of new and experienced authors.

In addition to writing her own book on grammar, she blogs at RuthlessEditor.com, sharing weekly tips on how to write to get the job you want, earn the promotion you’ve worked hard for, and artfully explain your best ideas.

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Weekly Excerpt From: GRAMMAR FOR PEOPLE WHO HATE RULES by Kathleen A. Watson

[This week’s excerpt seems appropriate when you consider the number of factoids currently being reported as fact.

Fact vs. Factoid:
Don’t Confuse the Two

Word meanings and their usage evolve and change. However, here’s one I’ve been keeping my eye on for years: factoid.

I first heard the word in graduate school, assuming it meant a tiny fact. I was wrong.

New York Times columnist Gail Collins let loose
with factoid in her Jan. 2, 2015, column. She wrote:

When Hillary Clinton thinks about running for president, do you think she contemplates the fact that no Democrat has been elected to succeed another Democrat since James Buchanan in 1856? We bring you this factoid in honor of the beginning of the 2016 election season.

Collins obviously chose factoid to convey an accepted historical fact. But consider the term’s history. American writer Norman Mailer coined it in his 1973 biography of Marilyn Monroe.

Mailer described a factoid as “facts which have no existence before appearing in a magazine or newspaper.” He created the word by combining fact with oid, meaning similar but not the same.

The Washington Times described Mailer’s new word as referring to “something that looks like a fact, could be a fact, but in fact is not a fact.”

Bottom line: A factoid is something that appears to be a fact but is not accurate or verified.

Other sources define factoid this way:

  • purporting to be factual or a phony statistic
  • seeming to be though not necessarily factual
  • a piece of unverified or inaccurate information that is presented in the press as factual, often as part of a publicity effort, and that is then accepted as true because of frequent repetition

Here’s the problem:

Some sources define factoid as a little-known bit of true information; trivial but interesting data; a brief, somewhat interesting fact.

Something either is or is not a fact. A word with two opposite, contradictory meanings at the least misleads readers, and at the worst misinforms readers. I intend to stick to the original meaning of factoid as Mailer crafted it.

  • Killer Tip: Unless you are certain your reading audience understands the difference between fact and factoid, avoid using factoid.


Writing and grammar expert Kathleen Watson, fondly known as The Ruthless Editor, has nearly three decades of experience in both corporate and academic worlds. She has taught business people how to fine-tune their communication style, college students how to strengthen their writing, and Ph.D. candidates how to polish their dissertations. Kathy also has experience as a fiction and nonfiction book copy editor, working with a mix of new and experienced authors.

In addition to writing her own book on grammar, she blogs at RuthlessEditor.com, sharing weekly tips on how to write to get the job you want, earn the promotion you’ve worked hard for, and artfully explain your best ideas.

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Weekly Excerpt From: GRAMMAR FOR PEOPLE WHO HATE RULES by Kathleen A. Watson

Your English Teacher Was Wrong:
You May Start a Sentence With And, But, So

Should you start a sentence with And? What about But or So?

It depends.

And, but and so serve as conjunctions; they’re joiners. They can be the perfect transition between one thought and another when your writing has an informal tone.

Here are examples that use these informal joiners:

  • Beth grabbed the bucket of water, set out on a dead
    run and reached the gate just as it was swinging shut. And she didn’t spill a drop!
  • Aaron promised he would never take his parents’ car without permission. But can you guess what he did
    last night?
  • The longer thumb-sucking continues, the higher
    the likelihood your child will need orthodontic treatment. So when should you intervene, and
    what should you do?

Here are the same examples with more-formal joiners — a conjunction and two prepositions:

  • Beth grabbed the bucket of water, set out on a dead
    run and reached the gate just as it was swinging shut. However, she didn’t spill a drop!
  • Aaron promised he would never take his parents’ car without permission. Despite that pledge, can you guess what he did last night?
  • The longer thumb-sucking continues, the higher the likelihood your child will need orthodontic treatment. Given the potential for that undesirable outcome, when should you intervene, and what should you do?

Good writers use the fewest and the shortest words. Good writers also consider their audience.

If you’re writing a dissertation, a thesis, a report on research findings or any treatise, you’ll be wise to use conjunctions such as these to convey a formal tone: however, nevertheless, moreover, furthermore, additionally.

But if you’re writing informally, there are many cases where And, But and So — all a single syllable — are acceptable ways to start a sentence.

  • Killer Quote: “There is a widespread belief — one with no historical or grammatical foundation — that it is an error to begin a sentence with a conjunction such as and, but or so. In fact, a substantial percentage (often as many as 10 percent) of the sentences in first-rate writing begin with conjunctions. It has been so for centuries, and even the most conservative grammarians have followed this practice.”

— The Chicago Manual of Style

Writing and grammar expert Kathleen Watson, fondly known as The Ruthless Editor, has nearly three decades of experience in both corporate and academic worlds. She has taught business people how to fine-tune their communication style, college students how to strengthen their writing, and Ph.D. candidates how to polish their dissertations. Kathy also has experience as a fiction and nonfiction book copy editor, working with a mix of new and experienced authors.

In addition to writing her own book on grammar, she blogs at RuthlessEditor.com, sharing weekly tips on how to write to get the job you want, earn the promotion you’ve worked hard for, and artfully explain your best ideas.

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DAH da DOT da DAHHH . . .

Only time for the highlights. I’m working furiously to finish the second book in the Dark Landing series, so I ask your forgiveness for not posting in a while.

In no particular order (except I saved the best for last):

  • TRANSMUTED Sales – My sales have been steady, and I’m thrilled to report I earned my royalty advance in the first 45 days. TRANSMUTED made it to the top 100 in all three SF&F categories, and 2,642 out of well over a million Kindle books is nothing to sneeze at:
    I’m at about 1,600 in total sales, a third of which is attributable to Kindle Press pushing an Anniversary Sale of their entire catalog. I didn’t see any of the actual promotion pieces (the Amazon algorithm excludes me from books I’ve ‘read’), but the jump in sales was a huge tell.
  • TRANSMUTED Reviews – Thirty reviews to date, 2.5 a week, which is great, and the industry average in relation to sales. Better yet, they’re all five- and four-star except for a lone one-star. The one-star review wasn’t that bad; s/he just didn’t like the book. No problem. Okay, it stung a little. But I’m better now and I’ll take a 96% approval rate any day.
  • First Live Event – Art Fair at Cinnamon Roost Farm was Disappointing as far as print book sales go (2), although a good number of people took my marketing piece and I’m certain some will purchase the Kindle version. However, super successful in other areas. I met a fellow author, J.D. Scott, whose Anahera Daniels fantasy series begs a look-see. You will not be disappointed. J.D. has invited me to join her table at First Friday (for non-AZ followers, that’s a monthly art fair in downtown Phoenix), which is at the top of my Events-To-Try list.

PLUS (I hope this will bring a tickle to the tummy of my author followers), I connected with . . . DAH da DOT da DAHHH . . .

  • Kathleen A. Watson, author of GRAMMAR for people that who HATE RULES – Kathy has generously agreed to let me post selected chapters from her book. Yeah! you say, and I agree! To quote Brian Udermann, author, speaker, and educator: “Kathy’s book is easy to read and packed with practical tips that will make you a better writer and speaker. If you ever struggle with word use or punctuation [duh–who doesn’t], make this book your grammar bible!” I couldn’t say it better myself and that’s why I didn’t try. Stay tuned–same bat-time (or close); same bat-channel. This is a resource you’ll want to keep at your finger and stylus tips. [mike drop]
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April 8: Book Signing and Art Fair In Glendale

Saturday, April 8, 8:30 – 3:00
Cinnamon Roost Farm
5220 W. Cinnabar Avenue
Glendale, AZ 85302

Join me and other Arizona authors at Cinnamon Roost Farm. Enjoy the animals and partake of fresh ground coffee, tea, and fresh baked goods while you browse and shop the over 40 booths featuring local artisans, crafters, and creators of culinary delights. Shop for truly unique, handcrafted, and organic items, such as Goat Milk Soap, Knitted and Crochet Items, Paintings, Handmade Jewelry, Original Sketches, Handmade Dolls, Organic Single Source Coffee, Fresh Eggs, Pastries, Cookies, Raw wool, Felted Items, Handspun Yarn … and, of course, books by Arizona authors.

 

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TRANSMUTED $.99 Today Through April 3

Please share! Sci-fi mystery, TRANSMUTED (regularly $3.49) is on sale for $.99 today through April 3 (Kindle format only). It’s Kindle Press’ anniversary sale. Purchase TRANSMUTED on Amazon. (If you don’t have a Kindle, free Kindle reader apps are available for iOS, Android, Mac and PC:)

★★★★★ Transmuted is a well-crafted debut novel that opens up an exciting new universe of science fiction.  –Amazon Customer, Verified Purchase

★★★★★ An emotional roller coaster full of adventure, suspense, mystery, and just the right amounts of humor and romance. –Amazon Customer, Verified purchase

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Post 6: Tracking Kindle Press Publishing Process

This will be my last post under this title since the publishing process is over. The last communication I had from KP was a nice email with images attached for three promotional pushes (for lack of a better word)  through Amazon. A friend had already sent me an image for a promo she received that included my book as an Amazon Sci-Fi recommendation. And I checked my UK sales page and found a review from a customer who purchased the book “based on the Amazon recommendation.” So that’s  further proof, though I will never see them myself since their algorithm will drop me from promos for a book I’ve already purchased.

From this point out my focus is on improving sales and my Amazon sales rank. I won’t have hard statistics until the end of March (maddening!). All I have to go by until then is my Author Rank, which “is based on the sales of all your books on Amazon.com and is updated hourly.” It’s fun to look at 100 times a day but doesn’t provide concrete information. Amazon lists 16 separate author rankings/categories (at least in my case). A ranking drills down in categories . . . so your rank compares you to, say, all books in Amazon and from those, all books classified as literature and fiction, and from those all books listed as action and adventure, etc. The more categories, the better your sales look (but it’s an illusion — lights and mirrors!).

The following is from my “Author Central” page for TRANSMUTED, as of the hour I wrote this. (I don’t understand the difference between “All Books” and “Books” either.):

All Books #9,722 > Books #9,708 > Literature & Fiction #3,443 > Action/Adventure #532
All Books #9,722 > Books #9,708 >  Sci-Fi & Fantasy #1,127 > Science Fiction #569
Kindle eBooks #5,295 > Literature & Fiction #2,608 > Action & Adventure #402
Kindle eBooks #5,295 > Sci-Fi & Fantasy #805 > Science Fiction #434

These are from my TRANSMUTED Sales Page. (Customers may see these as well.):

Paid in Kindle Store > #5,125 (I think this does not include free downloads, but I’m not sure.)
#79 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Sci-Fi & Fantasy > Science Fiction > Colonization
#87 in Books > Sci-Fi & Fantasy > Science Fiction > Colonization
#112 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Sci-Fi & Fantasy > Science Fiction > Space Opera

I have no idea what it all means and, for once, the forums don’t really help. All I know for sure is if there was one further category called “Featuring a Pigeon,” TRANSMUTED would be a #1 best seller!

BREAKING NEWS: In about three days TRANSMUTED will be available in paperback as well as ebook. You heard it here first.

ALSO: 50+% done on the second book in the series (hard to stay focused when I’m watching my author ranking all day).

Later, guys.

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