Wednesday October 17

Essay of Argument or Persuasive Essay Learning Goals:

We are learning to:

  • Write an effective essay of argument or persuasive essay
    • I can identify the criteria for a persuasive essay and an essay of argument.
    • I can use a variety of types of “proofs”  to support my thesis.
    • I can develop my ideas in paragraphs using “state, illustrate, explain”.
    • I can avoid obvious errors in logic.
    • I can use logos, pathos, and ethos if writing a persuasive essay.
    • I can use a controlled tone in an essay of argument or emotion in a persuasive essay.
    • I can follow all six of Orwell’s rules:
      • don’t use pretentious diction/jargon
      • never use a long word when a short one will do
      • never use the passive when you can use the active
      • never use a metaphor you’re used to seeing
      • if it’s possible to cut a word out–do it
      • break a rule if following these rules makes your writing sound awful
    • I can vary my sentence types so that my writing has rhythm.
    • I can use transition words to ensure that my essay has coherence.
  • We are learning to use the writing process to produce polished drafts of our writing.
    • I can use a brainstorming process to generate and expand on ideas.
    • I can identify ideas that would be appropriate for an essay of argument or persuasive essay.
    • I can generate a concise thesis for an essay in the form of an opinion (for a persuasive essay) or a statement of fact (for an essay of argument).
    • I can create an outline for essay that shows relevant supporting details.
    • I can use MLA format (citations, indenting paragraphs, double spacing, etc.)
      • include citations if necessary (if I used a quotation or referenced a fact or idea that is not my own)
      • include properly formatted Works Cited if I used citations
    • I can use a variety of editing and revision strategies (spell check, suggesting feature in Google docs, peer editor).
    • I can apply the suggestions of a peer editor to produce a polished draft.


What Is Passive Voice?

Today passive voice will be learned (do you see what I did there? Huh?…. Anybody?…)


But sometimes you might want to use passive voice. For example:

What Is Active Voice?

I’ll start with active voice because it’s simpler. In an active sentence, the subject is doing the action. A straightforward example is the sentence “Steve loves Mary.” Steve is the subject, and he is doing the action: he loves Mary, the object of the sentence.

Another example is the title of the Marvin Gaye song “I Heard It through the Grapevine.” “I” is the subject, the one who is doing the action. “I” is hearing “it,” the object of the sentence.

What Is Passive Voice?

In passive voice, the target of the action gets promoted to the subject position. Instead of saying, “Steve loves Mary,” I would say, “Mary is loved by Steve.” The subject of the sentence becomes Mary, but she isn’t doing anything. Rather, she is just the recipient of Steve’s love. The focus of the sentence has changed from Steve to Mary.

If you wanted to make the title of the Marvin Gaye song passive, you would say “It was heard by me through the grapevine,” not such a catchy title anymore.

Is “To Be” a Sign of a Passive Sentence?

A lot of people think all sentences that contain a form of the verb “to be” are in passive voice, but that isn’t true. For example, the sentence “I am holding a pen” is in active voice, but it uses the verb “am,” which is a form of “to be.” The passive form of that sentence is “The pen is being held by me.”

Notice that the subject, the pen, isn’t doing anything in that sentence. It’s not taking an action; it’s passive. One clue that your sentence is passive is that the subject isn’t taking a direct action.

Is Passive Voice Always Wrong?

Passive voice isn’t wrong, but it’s often a poor way to present your thoughts.

Another important point is that passive sentences aren’t incorrect; it’s just that they often aren’t the best way to phrase your thoughts. Sometimes passive voice is awkward and other times it’s vague. Also, passive voice is usually wordy, so you can tighten your writing if you replace passive sentences with active sentence.

When you put sentences in passive voice, it’s easy to leave out the person or thing doing the action. For example, “Fred is loved,” is passive. The problem with that sentence is that you don’t know who loves Fred. Of course, maybe that doesn’t matter. Maybe you want to emphasize the idea that Fred is just loved in general, in which case, that’s fine.

Politicians often use passive voice to intentionally obscure the idea of who is taking the action. Ronald Reagan famously said, “Mistakes were made,” when referring to the Iran-Contra scandal. Other examples of passive voice for political reasons could include “Bombs were dropped,” and “Shots were fired.” Pay attention to the news and listen for examples of passive voice.

Also, businesses sometimes use passive voice. It sounds better to write, “Your electricity will be shut off,” than “We, the electric company, will be shutting off your power.”

Is Passive Voice Hard to Understand?

A recent study suggests that less educated people–those who dropped out of school when they were 16–have a harder time understanding sentences written in the passive voice than those written in active voice.