ECHO: Voice and Mood
(more fun with verbs)
Just as voice and mood are important in conveying information in everyday life, so are they important in writing. In the English language, there are two styles of voice and three styles of mood:
An actor relies on his or her voice to express the intent of the dialogue sharp and aggressive or weak and defensive. A writer uses voice for the same purpose.
A. In the active voice, the subject performs the action of the verb. In other words, the subject is acting.
Active voice: John challenged David to a duel. (6 words)
(who performs the action in this sentence? The subject John performs the
action: John challenged.)
James Bond saved the world from total destruction. (8 words)
(the subject James Bond performs the action: James Bond saved.)
The active voice is used when the person, place or thing performing the action is important. If we are writing a book about James Bond, we want to know that James Bond saved the world.
In other words, the person who performs the action (James Bond) is all important. (The world just needs to be saved . . . .)
** The active voice expresses action and is less wordy than passive voice.**
B. In the passive voice, the subject receives the action of the verb.
Passive voice: David was challenged to a duel by John. (8 words)
(what is the subject David doing in this sentence? Nothing. David was
challenged. Who did the challenging? John the object of the preposition by.)
The world was saved from total destruction by James Bond. (10 words)
(now the world is all important; our hero just happens to be the person who
performs the deed . . . .)
The passive voice is used when the results of the action are more important than who performed them. (We don't care that James Bond saved the world; all we care about is that the world was saved.)
One funny thing about the passive voice is that the person, place or thing performing the action need not be mentioned.
David was challenged to a duel.
The world was saved from total destruction.
The results of the action are all that is necessary. Since the results are of the most importance, the passive voice is the preferred voice in academic writing such as the sciences, psychology, and sociology because the research--not the writer--holds the importance in the paper.
The data were collected from Group A, the primary control group, and Group B, the subject
(no mention is made of the writer. i.e., I collected the data from Group A, the primary
control group, and Group B, the subject test group.)
** Unless you are writing a science paper, use the active voice. The active voice is less wordy, more concise, and allows the reader to think that something is happening. **
Mood in writing refers to a writer's attitude toward a statement. The mood can be indicative, imperative or subjunctive.
A. The indicative mood is the most commonly used mood in the English language. Indicative mood is used to make statements about facts or to ask questions requiring an answer.
No one reads very much these days.
We all sat down to watch the football game.
Do you need any help with your assignment?
B. The imperative mood is used to give a command or direct request. If the subject is left out of the statement, it is understood to be you, anybody, somebody, or everybody.
** A strong statement is punctuated with an exclamation mark (!); a weaker one is punctuated with a period.**
Leave me alone!
Please fasten your seatbelts.
Run for your lives!
C. The subjunctive mood indicates wishes, ideas other than those stated in fact, recommendations, and indirect requests. Subjunctive mood except in present subjunctive uses the past plural tense form of the verb. (for the verb be use were for all persons and numbers.)
** With the present subjunctive, use the simple (infinite) form of the verb for all persons and numbers.**
Subjunctive The prosecutor asked that she testify again. He asked that she be patient.
1. Use the subjunctive mood in if-clauses that express conditions or ideas that are not fact or a clause expressing an idea that is unlikely to occur.
If I were a rich man, I would buy stock in a Japanese electronics firm.
Our chances to win the Trivial Pursuit championship would be better if our
team were better prepared.
2. Use the subjunctive mood in some unless clauses when the idea of the clause is unlikely to occur.
Unless help were suddenly to arrive, General Custer and the Seventh Cavalry
3. Use the subjunctive mood in that-clauses expressing wishes, indirect requests, and recommendations. (clauses following such words as ask, request, desire, insist, recommend, and wish.)
I wish that I were rich.
Carlos requested that the meeting be moved.