Nifty New Tool: Headline Analyzer

Whenever I hear about a fun writing tool, I have to try it out. Most recently I learned about a nifty headline analyzer from SpeakerNet News (a highly recommended weekly resource for professional speakers and trainers www.speakernetnews.com).

For a recent Word Tripper of the Week, I played with various subject lines. After starting with the too-familiar Random Acts of Kindness, the analyzer scored these various ideas and helped me choose one (noted in bold). Which one of these would you have selected? A better idea yet?

1) The Kinder Side of Life (score of 65)

2) No Act of Kindness Is Too Small (score of 60)

3) The Gift of Kindness (score of 62)

4) Cool To Be Kind (score of 66)

5) Speak the Language of Kindness (score of 53)

Feel free to experiment with your own headings at http://coschedule.com/headline-analyzer

Share your experience here.

Active-ate Your Verbs and Improve Your Writing

by Barbara McNichol

Before detecting the “passive” voice and addressing how to change it to “active,” consider why you should care.

Active verbs will improve your writing (most of the time) because:

  • Active verbs declare who or what is (or should be) performing the action; you avoid confusion, guesswork, or dodging responsibility.
  • Active verbs make your writing flow more easily; readers will more quickly get the ideas you want to convey.
  • Sentences constructed in the active voice usually require fewer words; you constantly want to aim to write concisely!

How to Identify “Passive”
As a reader, if you can’t identify the doer of the action—the subject—the sentence has likely been constructed in the passive voice. Even when the subject is clear, two clues help you identify “passive” use: 1) the word “by” and 2) variations of the verb “to be.”

Juicy!

Juicy!

Consider these sentences:
Passive—“The juicy watermelon was eaten by the boy.”
Active—“The boy chomped into the watermelon’s juicy belly.”

Passive—“Employees are seen by their managers as responsive and enthusiastic.”
Active—“Managers see their employees as responsive and enthusiastic.”

In addition, passive verbs can foster weasel-like communication. They might be used to hide who’s responsible for an action, thus evading accountability rather than declaring it. For example, if a contract states “the rules for the homeowners will be enforced” but doesn’t note who will enforce those rules, what’s the result? Ambiguity. Confusion. Inaction.

How to Identify “Active”
The pattern for an active sentence is typically “subject + verb + direct object.” The direct object is the recipient of the action—that is, what or whom the verb affects. Example: The employees (subject) implement (verb) the new strategy (object). Who’s doing the action of implementing the new strategy? The employees. Thus, it’s clear the employees are accountable for the action.

Your Turn
Notice the passive construction in the following sentence and rewrite it, making sure to use an active verb. (Hint: You’ll need to make up a subject.)

Passive: This policy is being implemented in an effort to streamline our process.
Active: ___________________________________

Use the clues I’ve provided to identify passive sentences you’ve written and revise them. Not sure if you rewrote one or more of them correctly? Share them with me via email, and I’ll provide feedback.