‘Active Voice’ can suck it, and other musings on terrible style advice

I have a growing hatred of active voice at all costs mantra.

It started with betas – not all of them, and always well-meaning – correcting my writing into active voice, but to the point where the sentences were sometimes bizarre or downright unreadable (e.g., missing verbs entirely).

Lately, I find myself rebelliously writing in passive. Adding in adverbs for troll factor. Telling and not showing, because I’d rather be concise than wrangle convoluted, tacked-on pseudo explanations where they don’t always fit.

And then there’s the rigid style advice. Let me sum up this incoherent rant into a cohesive example:

Someone recommended that I change the first line of TOS from “On the island of Fallen Bells where no birds ever land, an anomaly went sauntering through the boiling rain along a barren stretch of beach” 


No birds ever landed on the island of Fallen Bells, as Nefral sauntered through the rain. 

So let’s pick apart this advice. “Went sauntering” to sauntered, I could take. I’m ambivalent, although again the iteration that I must not start with passive phrasing engenders in me a desire to do just that. Irrational, I know.

Rewording the sentence because (the actual reason given) “it feels like a run on” – a sentence is a run on, or it’s not. It doesn’t feel like one. This feeds into my hatred of the long-sentence hate. But more relevantly, starting with “no birds ever landed” is incorrect emphasis; the reader is assuming I don’t have a reason for wanting it to sound like an after thought.

The reader also commented that their version is a better hook which will appeal to more people. I do not want to appeal to more people; I want to appeal to a certain type of person.

Removal of boiling (because critiquer assumes boiling is an over the top description, not a literal one, even though it is) doesn’t suit either.


Anyway, I’m posting this as an example of some of the advice I’ve gotten which has mostly been good but isn’t always. Be careful of adapting yourself to what is really someone else’s style.



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