Qualities of expression: Force affected by word choice

in-nuce.com: Force affected by word choice
Active voice is more forceful: The chicken used the computer.
voice is less forceful: The computer was used by the chicken.

(Source: http://www.savagechickens.com/)
From Beginnings of Rhetoric and Composition, by Adams Hill:

Force as affected by choice of words

A good writer who aims at force will usually prefer
a. short to long words,
b. specific and concrete to general and abstract ones,
c. words that flash an idea on the mind to those that communicate it slowly.
He will also be careful to connect the several parts of each sentence in such a way as to make
d. that which is subordinate in thought subordinate in form and
e. that which is prominent in thought prominent in form.
One means of attaining this end is through a wise choice of words that serve as connectives.

1. Weak Use of Conjunctions

"And" is frequently, and other conjunctions are sometimes, so used as to stand in the way of force.
A: Salmon and trout abound, — a fact duly appreciated by several of our party.
B: Salmon and trout abound and this fact was duly appreciated by several of our party.
In Sentence B, the writer treats the two clauses connected by "and" as if they were of equal importance. In the amended version, by omitting " and," and by putting "a fact" in apposition with the clause "salmon and trout abound," we throw the emphasis on that clause.
A: Daniel's father, wishing him to become a minister, sent him to an academy.
B: His father felt that he would like Daniel to become a minister  and sent him to an academy.
Sentence B lays as much stress on what Daniel's father felt as on what his feeling led him to do. The amended version emphasizes what he did — the important fact.
A: The Reverend Mr. Collins, having succeeded in obtaining the obtaining the living which Mr. Darcy's aunt, Lady Catherine, had offered him, was filled with gratitude to his benefactress and admiration of her.
B: Mr. Collins had succeeded in obtaining the living which Mr. Darcy's aunt, Lady Catherine, had offered to her rector, and so the Rev. Mr. Collins was filled with gratitude to and admiration of his benefactress.
School and college compositions abound with sentences like B, — sentences in which two ideas, no matter what their relative importance, are tacked together by means of the convenient "and so."
The weak construction with "and" is the most common form of a common fault; but it is not the only form.
A: Compelled by necessity, he allowed himself to be enrolled as a guardsman, —the very thing he had said he would not do.
B: He was enrolled as a guard,  the very thing he said he would  not do, but now necessity compelled him.
Sentence B lays as much emphasis on the comparatively unimportant fact that "necessity compelled him" as on the important fact that "he was enrolled as a guard." The amended version gives each fact its due importance.
A: As I was hurrying down School Street, an excited crowd attracted attracted my attention.
B: I was hurrying down School Street when an excited crowd my attention.
Sentence B is less forcible than Sentence A because it lays stress on the fact that "I was hurrying down School Street" rather than on the more important fact that "an excited crowd attracted my attention."

2. Weak Use of Participles

An unskilled writer often weakens a sentence by the misuse of a participial phrase.
A: Turning down the shawl, she disclosed a baby's face.
B: She turned the shawl down revealing a baby's face.
Sentence B makes more of the fact that the shawl was turned down than of the fact that a baby's face was disclosed. Sentence A gives emphasis to the more important fact.
A: The king of Lilliput applied to Gulliver, who told him to be of good cheer but did not tell him what his plan was.
B: The King of Lilliput applied to Gulliver, who told him to be of good cheer, not making known his design.
The participial expression in Sentence B is equally important with the relative clause, and should therefore be in the same form.
A: The hero is a Scottish youth who has come to France to seek his fortune.
B: The hero is a Scottish youth, having come to France to seek his fortune.
In Sentences A, a relative clause makes a much stronger ending than a participial phrase; for the relative clause combines with the main clause so closely as to show that the two were thought of together by the writer, whereas the participial phrase seems to be an afterthought.

3. Active or Passive Voice?

Force is sometimes affected by the choice between the active voice and the passive.
Passive: If anything more could have been done to show his respect which was not done, Jonathan would have been sorry for it.
Active: If he had not done all that he could to show his respect, Jonathan would have been sorry.
Passive: By this exhibition he was placed before the public. 
Active: This exhibition brought him before the public.
In each of these examples, the change from the passive to the active voice gives life to the sentence.
But sometimes the passive voice, if it's idiomatic, is a better choice:
Active: Great things are preparing. 
Passive: Great things are being prepared.
Active: A fight is making against it. 
Passive: There is a fight being made against it.
Active: Accounts of what was doing kept coming in.
Passive: Accounts of what was being done kept coming in.
Passive forms like those above have come into common use. They are found in the works of some good authors and are occasionally conducive to clearness.
When, however, active forms are so familiar that they may be used without creating obscurity, they are still preferable to passive forms; for they are less clumsy and more forcible.

Pin It button on image hover