if this post appears oddly timed, given it’s neither Christmas nor my wedding anniversary, that’s because it was originally scheduled for release in december, but i’ve brought the release forward to fulfil this week’s daily post writing challenge. for some reason, the subject just called to me for use as an exercise in employing the active and passive voices. ha!
oh, and i ask that you grant me a degree of latitude in respect of other grammatical fiends that
maymight sneak their way in to mock me whilst my attention is directed elsewhere!
the wedding’s done, the guests have gone and all the cake is eaten. but what to do with all the bits and bobs you (and others) spent months, years even, gathering for the big day?
case in point: our wedding cake.
during the course of our wedding reception, our guests scoffed down a devastatingly tasty, three-tier sponge cake decorated simply with paper flowers and baubles. i made the flowers. the gorgeous satin baubles were sourced by our very talented and aesthetically astute cake lady. when the celebrations were over, it seemed a shame not to put those beautiful purple balls to good use.
i bought three stretched canvasses from my local art shop and painted the insides with a suitably complementary acrylic. arranged, adjusted and repositioned to perfection, the lovely satin spheres were soon secured in place with the assistance of my trusty hot glue gun. a few miniature baubles (that i’d used to make the flowers) and some translucent marbles (formerly of centrepiece fame) completed the bubbling effect.
they looked perfect… for all of a few weeks, after which the sun took its toll and the baubles faded to a ghastly pink.
their vibrant, purple sheen was mourned by me for longer than was strictly necessary, but i was not about to be defeated in my efforts to preserve a quirky memento of my wedding cake… and so, following in the path of many frustrated creatives, i reached for the spray paint.
in case you noticed (and in the event you’re wondering), use of the passive voice in the first non-italicised sentence under the title ‘wedding balls’ and specific reference to ‘our guests’ in the first sentence after the photo of our cake was deliberate. husband and i didn’t even get a nibble!
well, that’s active voice and passive voice
done attempted. now, what’s a past participle??
>>> update <<<
some thoughts on the exercise
23 august 2012
i’m happy to admit that my grasp of grammar, garnered as it was from an english school education (enough said) and a militant, grammarian grandmother (whose forceful approach only served to make me physically shudder whenever i hear ‘myself’ and ‘yourself’ repeatedly misused) is perhaps not what it should be. that said, my english teacher was german, so all is not lost.
anyway, i’m definitely more of an i-know-it-when-i-hear-it kinda grammar girl and this challenge has had me with my ear fully to the ground. my conclusion: actively using the passive voice is a nightmare. every sentence i forced into passive form sounded wrong, wrong, wrong. whereas the ones that fled my keyboard with little thought, naturally tripped off my tongue when read back. here are some examples.
the wedding’s done, the guests have gone and all the cake is eaten
aside from a niggling concern about tense issues (and i’m expecting someone who knows what they’re talking about to leap in here and either tell me my concerns are completely unfounded or that i’ve really underestimated the depth of the problem), ‘all the cake is eaten’ says exactly what it’s supposed to without seeming in any way contrived. who knows who ate all the cake? it certainly wasn’t me.
arranged, adjusted and repositioned to perfection, the lovely satin spheres were soon secured in place with the assistance of my trusty hot glue gun
this sentence started life as something like, ‘then i simply glued the baubles in place’. however, i wanted more emphasis on the baubles, so it became, ‘the baubles were simply glued in place’. that sounded awful and i didn’t even know why. it was out of sync with the sentence that preceded it. it lacked grace. i tried, ‘the baubles were simply glued in place with my trusty hot glue gun’. then, after pondering at great length whether ‘hot glue gun’ should in fact be ‘hot-glue gun’ and experiencing an increasing dislike of the repeated use of the word ‘glue’, i settled on, ‘the baubles were secured in place with the assistance of my trusty hot glue gun’. no! now the baubles were lost again. how about, ‘those lovely satin spheres were secured in place with the assistance of my trusty hot glue gun’? yes, much better.
however, something gnawed uncomfortably. the voices in my head were muttering with distaste, but without providing an acceptable solution. then i read mirth and motivation’s take on the challenge and this sentence jumped out at me, “handpicked, delicately packed in tissue and boxed in a wooden crate, you could smell these peaches in the dark.” beautiful. so i tried, ‘arranged, adjusted and repositioned to perfection, the lovely satin spheres were soon secured in place with the assistance of my trusty hot glue gun’. it certainly looks more like a sentence of mine, rambling on for more than my german english teacher’s prescribed one and a half lines. it sounds ok too. unfortunately, i have no idea why. is it because the passive voice only really works when it’s being passive? ‘arranged, adjusted and repositioned to perfection’ is unobtrusive. ‘the baubles were glued into place’ is somehow obnoxious and demanding of attention; passivity trying out activity for size… and it doesn’t fit.
in honesty, i’m none the wiser. i still hate, ‘their vibrant, purple sheen was mourned by me for longer than was strictly necessary’, but frankly i’ve lost the will to fight with the voices in my head. it really should just read, ‘i mourned their vibrant purple sheen for longer than was strictly necessary’ and that’s that!!
what were your issues with this challenge? when do you think passive voice works and when does it not? i’d love to hear your views.