passive voice, contractions, microsoft word 2012 program


According to William Strunk Jr. book, "The Elements of Style" 4th edition, the use of the active voice without some passive voice becomes forcible reading. He encourages to allow some passive voice. These statements are on pages 17, 18.

According to The Chicago Manual of Style 16th Edition, page 633, number 13.37, contractions are best used in dialogue or narration.

I have Microsoft Word 2012 program that marks commars at and at times and apparently not other times. As well, it spells areola this way as does the free dictionary on line.

I used "to be" and it came back with redundant use.

So, please tell me, who do I believe?

See example:

The top of Katrina's head, as he looked down to her, brought back memory of temptation in wanting to touch her on the beach; and he ran his hands beneath her gown, slowly massaging her abdomen.
asked Oct 29 '12 at 18:47 Dot Yates New member

2 answers


You have raised a number of issues, but have asked only one general question -- who are you to believe? Well, you should believe me because I'm on the Internet and the Internet is always right. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.) Let's look at the issues you raise:


Passive and Active Voice -- The choice of "voice" is a matter of style. Neither is right, nor wrong. Most research tells us that active voice is more engaging, more interesting, and easier to read than passive voice. And most editors and writers agree with E. B. White and William Strunk that some passive voice in a mostly active voice text adds variety and interest. However, for some types of writing, the passive voice is encouraged -- mostly journal articles in the hard sciences. Both Microsoft Word and Grammarly try to identify all passive voice usages -- they use different algorthyms and different definitions of passive voice so they come up with slightly different results. Remember, neither is telling you it is wrong. They identify the passive voice to assist you as you edit your work. I, for instance, try to keep the passive voice at around 2% of my sentences and passive "to be" verbs below 15% of my total verbs. The various grammar checkers help me identify parts of my text that I want/need to tighten.


Contractions -- In addition to CMOS, other style guides for academic writing -- the MLA and APA guides come to  mind -- also discourage the use of contractions, except in dialogue and narration. Contractions in the text have a place in informal writing -- such as personal essays, letters/emails between friends, and magazine articles that wish to adopt a breezy tone. By convention, you should avoid all contractions in formal writing -- school reports, term papers, dissertations, journal articles, books, business reports, and business correspondence.


Comma Errors -- While there are rules for comma placement, several of the rules require an understanding of the meaning of a sentence -- commas are not used with restrictive clauses and phrases while they are used with nonrestrictive clauses and phrases. Since software cannot understand meaning, it often fails to correctly identify comma errors -- I've read research that suggests the best software can only identify about 30% of comma errors. Microsoft Word, in my experience, tries to deal with only a small subset of comma issues with mixed results. Software, as yet, cannot replace a human for truly editing text.


Areola -- so spelled by Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed., 2007), the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (5th ed., 2011), and the Oxford English Dictionary (online edition).


"To be" -- You did not provide the sentence, so I cannot tell you whether your usage was redundant.


Finally, your example sentence misuses the semicolon. Because you begin your second independt clause with the conjunction "and," you should join the two clauses with a comma (not semicolon). If you want to use the semicolon, delete the conjunction "and."


I hope this helps.

link comment answered Oct 29 '12 at 19:31 Jeff Pribyl Grammarly Fellow

The fear of being buried alive is perhaps as old as the fear of death itself. Vic told me a story that happened in Chicago when she was there last year. A young man was in a train accident and near death. When he was transported to the hospital, one of his eyes was hanging from the socket; he was completely covered in blood, and was banged up so bad you knew he was either dead or close to death. The doctor checked his vital signs, declared him dead, and covered the man’s body with a sheet. He told the nurse on duty to push the body into the corner of the emergency room and call the hospital morgue to have the body picked up.

link comment answered Jan 24 '13 at 12:49 Marsha Stewart New member

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