I’ve noticed that this 12-day blogging challenge is far easier than the 30-day challenge I did in April and not just because of the length. I can remember running out of ideas 5 or 6 days in during that challenge, and so far for this […]
Whenever I read something written in passive voice, it makes me think of politicians. “Mistakes were made” is the most political thing to say, and it’s a common example for explaining passive voice.
What is passive voice? It’s when you hide the subject of the sentence; you’re hiding who is one taking the action described by the verb. Examples:
Mistakes were made.
Lives were lost.
The snacks were eaten.
All of the sentences leave you with questions. Who made the mistakes? Whose lives were lost? Who ate the snacks?
Passive voice implies shirked responsibility. Instead of being clear, the author or speaker is intentionally hiding a key piece of information by choosing passive voice over active voice.
Active voice forces you to reveal the subject, giving the reader/listener clarity.
I made a mistake.
The soldiers lost their lives.
Cameron ate all the snacks.
In my own writing, I sometimes throw in passive voice sentences when I’m being lazy or vague and can’t fully form the idea I’m trying to get across. You can also trick yourself into thinking passive voice sounds more professional or academic, but it usually isn’t.
Challenge yourself to be clear and eliminate passive voice from your writing.
A friend told me about the Up and Vanished podcast recently, so I binged it this weekend. Between errands, gift wrapping, and cleaning, I had plenty of time to listen to all 24 episodes, many of which are only half an hour. Now that the podcast is over, I’m left feeling very unsettled and lacking closure.
Disclaimer: This post contains spoilers for Up and Vanished.
In case you aren’t familiar, Up and Vanished (UAV) chronicles the disappearance of Tara Grinstead, a 30-year-old teacher from south Georgia who went missing in October 2005. Her body was never recovered, and when the podcast started in 2016, no one had ever been arrested, either. It’s debatable whether the podcast helped “shake the trees,” but two suspects were arrested in 2017 for her murder and for helping to conceal her body, respectively. Knowing all of this ahead of time, I thought for sure there would be resolution to this case, unlike when I listened to Serial so many years ago.
Second-mover advantage meant that I got to zip straight through the podcast and not have to wait 2 weeks in between each episode. I got more and more excited as information about the first arrest came into play and later the second arrest as well. But as the episodes started dwindling down, I noticed we were running out of time to hear about the trial, the verdict, and most important to me – the whole truth.
Well, the podcast is over, and there isn’t even a trial date yet. While there is some slight resolution to the case (it’s a murder, not a missing person case), the podcast left me with a ton of unanswered questions, which I hate.
It brought me back to my first and only experience on jury duty. It was an armed robbery case where the defendant had already confessed to the crime in a police interview. I thought it would be a slam dunk, easy case. Surely everyone tells the truth on the stand, right?
Maybe, but I doubt it. We were met with conflicting stories, extraneous details, and a defendant who said he falsely confessed for fear of his life. While I am still confident this man was guilty, which was what our unanimous vote was, it still bothered me that all of the puzzle pieces didn’t fit together.
The Tara Grinstead case is worse in that these two seemingly random young men who she possibly hadn’t had any contact with since they graduated 3 years prior were the ones responsible for her disappearance. The lack of motive leaves me confused and irritated, and the harsh reality is that even a guilty verdict in a trial doesn’t guarantee a motive or the answers to many other questions will be revealed. And that sucks.
I’m a planner and a saver, so planning my wedding a few years ago was the typical mix of exhilarating and stressful when you consider the wedding premium placed on everyday party objects. The wedding premium is when the price automatically increases just by being […]
Mississippi is the worst state. Let me give you anecdotal evidence to scientifically prove my point.
Every time my team went to Mississippi in college, something bad happened.
In January 2010, we came back to Berry a few days before the semester started, so we could travel to Jackson, Mississippi for the Mississippi Blues Half Marathon. To date, this is the coldest race I’ve ever run. This is what I wore to packet pickup the day before:
It was 18 degrees at the start, and many of us pulled something during the race just from our muscles’ inability to warm up. Volunteers were furiously sweeping up the cast aside water cups on the course water stops since any remaining liquid immediately froze once it hit the ground, creating an icy patch for runners to cross. Teammates finished with their sweat frozen to their faces and had icicles in their hair. We huddled together wrapped in space blankets, happy to head back to the motel for hot showers.
Unfortunately some of the doors wouldn’t open when we got back. The rooms that were closest to the pool were the least protected from the cold temps, so the doors were frozen shut. This delayed our departure as it took maintenance almost an hour to get all of those doors open.
When we finally got on the road, we started planning activities for that evening. It was our teammate Taylor’s birthday, and Jackson back to Berry was only about 6 hours, so we had plenty of time for birthday festivities.
After some time on the road, there was some traffic on the interstate. I’m not sure how long we sat completely motionless on our Leisure Time charter bus before someone started investigating (this was pre-smartphone for me). There was a jackknifed tractor trailer a few miles ahead, and the whole interstate was shut down. With a wall of cars in front of us as well as behind us, there was nowhere to go.
We spent 3 hours sitting in the same spot. Despite the fatigue from the half marathon, knowing that we couldn’t move resulted in a fair amount of cabin fever. During those 3 hours, we fit Michael (a tall skinny runner, who would imagine we had one of those?) into the overhead baggage compartments, had a dance party, and wrapped Jacque up in toilet paper like a mummy (I decided against photos to protect the innocent).
All in all, we made it home, no one was hurt, and we were able to celebrate Taylor’s birthday the next day. This trip did make all of us a little suspicious of Mississippi, though.
The nail in the coffin for Mississippi came the next school year in the fall. We were going to a new cross country meet – the Brooks Memphis Twilight. This was exciting because it was a night race, and my aunt and uncle were living in Memphis at that time, so they could come to the race.
To get to Memphis, you have to go through Mississippi. We were in the middle of the state when the bus driver put on his hazards and pulled over to the shoulder of the interstate. Apparently some part of the roof of the bus near where his sun visor attached was broken. I to this day don’t believe it was stop-worthy, but safety first, I guess.
It quickly got very warm on the bus, so a lot of us ventured outside, just hanging out on the side of a major interstate. Thankfully it was wooded for the inevitable needs of well-hydrated runners.
After an hour or so, the bus driver let us know that another bus was on the way, and he needed to take this bus to a mechanic. We had to unload all of our stuff and watch the bus drive away (cough, fully functional, cough) and look like a group of matching homeless people.
Thankfully, our coach had the infinite wisdom to plan for an extremely early arrival, so we would have time to explore the city a little bit. Despite the unfortunate circumstances, we knew we should still make our races.
Finally, after another hour, a new bus showed up! Instead of the usual charter bus, it was a tour bus, and it had (allegedly) shuttled Jason Mraz around the night before. Happy to have a new means of transportation, we crammed into the new bus. Rather than the usual rows of seats, this bus has a few leather bench couches, so it was a tight fit for a group our sized with each person also having a duffle bag.
We made it to the race venue in just enough time to drop our stuff and get in a warmup. We cut it close for sure, no thanks to the traffic we encountered once we got into the city, but the night races were a success!
While these stories both have (eventual) happy endings, I still believe this offers definitive and objective evidence for Mississippi being the worst.
I encountered a Twitter storm Monday afternoon as the Boston Athletic Association announced the elite field for the 2018 Boston Marathon. My (biased) opinion is that US women marathoners are the most exciting segment of distance running right now, so I wanted to take a […]