1. Manny
    Offline

    Manny Member

    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2007
    Messages:
    49
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    England and Estonia

    A little sentence structure guidance please?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Manny, Jan 1, 2008.

    A little sentence structure guidance please?

    The book I am writing is non fiction; more instructional. I am torn between using the “I will show you this” approach or the “we will examine this” approach. I feel the latter may involve the reader more and come across as less dictatorial. Upon review recently, I find I am using both and I am minded to think it should be either/or? Am I correct to think I should remain consistent in this regard?

    Examples would be: However, you are here to find out the possibilities for the informed man aren’t you? So we return to the question of ‘is it possible?’ The simple answer is ‘Yes!’ You too can…..

    Or the other way would be: I will seek to demystify the media hype and show you what you can really expect. I will explain to you the……….

    What would be the correct way to address the reader? ‘We shall do this together dear reader’ or ‘I shall teach you how to do this’ – all opinions welcome.
     
  2. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Another option is to take yourself out of the narrative entirely.
    Mixing imperative voice with second person puts the reader squarely into the endeavor, lets him or her encounter the problems along with the solutions.

    I don't recommend second person for fiction, because it gives a sense of someone steering the reader through the action, like a marionette. But for a how-to nonfiction work, that may be exactly the way you want the reader to feel - guided, not manipulated. With a first person (singular or plural) perspective, it will be hard to avoid sounding condescending.
     
  3. Manny
    Offline

    Manny Member

    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2007
    Messages:
    49
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    England and Estonia
    Why didnt I think of that! [​IMG]
     
  4. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    i'd strongly advise following cog's sage advice... i'd be totally put off by the pomposity of either the 'dear reader' or the 'i am god' approach...

    looks to me like you haven't done the requisite research before starting your book... go to the nearest borders or whatever the largest bookshop is in your neck of the woods and take a good look at the whole range of best-selling how-tos on the shelves there... see how they're treating the reader...
     
  5. dwspig2
    Offline

    dwspig2 Member

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2007
    Messages:
    43
    Likes Received:
    0
    Why include a person at all? I would think that when writing instructions, using the passive voice is perfectly alright. It is, at least, when writing summaries of scientific research when the writer/experimenter wishes to remove him or herself from the scope of things. Saying "you" imposes a lot on the reader - especially if it's already imperative in nature.
     
  6. Manny
    Offline

    Manny Member

    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2007
    Messages:
    49
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    England and Estonia
    I have been going through my text making small revisions but get stuck on a few points.

    In something that is written as instructional and based on personal experience, one must get the reader in a particular clear mindset first. In order to do this the reader must take a journey away from his pre conceived ideas back to a blank page, during this journey one must hold their hand (as it were) so it became "we shall investigate this" or "I shall show you this." "You will learn this" doesnt work with all scenarios I find.

    Its actually quite difficult to describe without publishing a whole heap of text. So here is one paragraph where I write "I will", "we will" and "you will" which in many respects seems quite contradictory and incorrect. :confused:

    -Edited-

    The problem is of course that the ideas go down on paper (computer) faster than consideration about construction rules. So now, later on and nearing the end, I find myself going back and polishing chapters and construction as one does.

    When writing a magazine or newspaper article it is very easy, one only has a few pages to play with. In a book I am of course over 100 pages in MS Word and it gets increasingly difficult as the text swells and develops.

    Tying things written at various times together to make it read smoothly is proving quite difficult.

    Advice from you more experienced folks is very welcome and much appreciated.
     
  7. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    You know, I think this is a situation where you would be justified in using passive voice. However, so many writing instructors have criticised its use that publishers may be oversensitive to it.

    The reader may find that it sounds dry.
     
  8. Manny
    Offline

    Manny Member

    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2007
    Messages:
    49
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    England and Estonia
    Cogito, excuse me if it sounds a stupid question; but could you expand on that please?
     
  9. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Passive voice dehumanizes the action. Even staid technical journals like the Journal of the American Chemical Society have discouraged passive voice in submitted papers for many years.

    Granted, descriptions of titrations and synthesis procedures are not the most stimulating reading under the best of circumstances, but passive voice makes it even harder to wade through.
     
  10. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    cog... did you mean your first example to be passive and the second to be active?... or...???
     
  11. dwspig2
    Offline

    dwspig2 Member

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2007
    Messages:
    43
    Likes Received:
    0
    That is what it appears, Mammamaia.

    The second sentence of the passive example doesn't really have to be made passive. It's fine as "The solution turned deep blue."
     

Share This Page