To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, remove things every day
And this was move than 2,500 years ago. I wonder, though, how do we determine what things to remove?
One of my bad habits as a writer is that I use the passive voice far to frequently – I have other flaws but this is the one I am writing about today. I was reading a post on the Writing Tomorrow blog: Showing More and Telling Less–Avoiding Nominalizations. In some ways this piece (which I think was from JC Piech) raised more questions for me than it answered.
First I didn’t know what a nominalisation was;-) I looked at wiki but in fact found a piece on the whole subject from Queen Mary University of London helped me out. The piece is simply called Nominalisation and suggests it is a strength for academic writers.
I hadn’t made the connection between passive writing and the whole concept of show don’t tell and this will hopefully help me improve in this regard.
Back to unlearning
I wanted to lead off with a picture of Yoda, who is a master of nominalisation and it helps him to sound alien (or alien to sound as he might say). To avoid copyright I avoided using pictures of the Jedi master. He did say this though:
You must unlearn what you have learned
A lot of life (and not just writing) is about overcoming the obstacles that are in our own minds. For me I like to read around a topic and have little eureka moments. I unlearn once I spot a problem (or have it pointed out to me). Nominalisation is the latest of these.
Now, when will I figure out a way to avoid so many parenthetical comments?
Do you nominalise too much? How do you avoid passive writing? How do you unlearn? Let me know!