Want to be a better writer? Want to journal your layouts in a way that moves people?
Use the active voice. And use vivid verbs.
What is the active voice?
It's a way of speaking that helps listeners paint more vivid pictures by putting words in the right order.
What are vivid verbs?
They are action words that "zip" and "move".
Here's what I'm talking about. Read the next two sentences. Tell me which one painted a better picture in your mind.
#1 - The ball was thrown to Jim from Bill in left field.
#2 - Left-fielder Bill heaved the ball to the Jim.
If you're like most people, then #2 painted a better picture in your mind. Notice a couple of things about sentence #2. First, it's shorter than sentence #1. That's because we got rid of some words we didn't need. Second, we put the characters and their actions in a different order.
Let's walk through sentence #1. What does your mind see when you read this.
#1 you see ball.
#2 then, oh!, the ball is moving because it was thrown.
#3 wow, a guy named Jim caught the ball
#4 a guy named Bill threw the ball
#5 that Bill guy is in left field.
Does that strike you as totally backwards? In real life, things proceed in an order. One person throws the ball, then the other person catches it. In sentence #1, though, a ball is mysteriously "thrown", then we find out who it was thrown to, and only then do we find out who through it.
This is called using the "passive" voice. It's when you don't first know or announce who is doing the "acting" (and "act" is the operative word in "active".
Look for your verb. If your verb has "was" or "were" before it, it's probably passive. If your verb does not have someone or something "doing" the action, then you're probably not using the active voice.
Here's some examples.
Weak: The tool was placed on the bench. (Who or what placed the tool???!!!)
Strong: Marty placed the tool on the bench.
Weak: The candies were left on the table. (Who or what left the candies???!!!)
Strong: Andy and Elvis left the candies on the table.
Do you see what I mean?
Now. Vivid Verbs. Basically, here I just mean that you should pick words that paint picture and have a lot of pizzazz.
Instead of saying, "I lifted the package" or "I moved the package", say, "I heaved (or flung) the package."
Instead of saying, "I ran to the store" say "I zipped to the store" or "I bolted to the store."
Vivid verbs. Action words that have energy and movement in them.
So, what now? You know the secret to good writing. What's next? Go practice!
I invite you to stop reading, right now, get a piece of paper and a pencil, and write a journal entry about an event that happened in your life this week. It can be poignant or mundane. Doesn't matter.
Once you've written about the event, go back and circle every use of the word "was" or "were". Look and see if you tell who is doing the acting before you talk about the action.
Then adjust your sentences to be in the active voice.
I promise that if you use the active voice, your writing will be more influential, more passionate, more vivid, and more emotionally charged. It will be more readable, and more exciting.