Let the dog bite the boy

Let me begin the post by asking you guyz a question: which sentence is better – the dog bit the boy or the boy was bitten by the dog? If you ask me, I would say the FIRST ONE. The reason: it was simple, easy and clear…. and yes it was short. Let’s take a look.

Short: “The dog bit the boyconsists of 5 words. Now, look at the sentence “the boy was bitten by the dog” has 7 words in it. So, if you take word economy into consideration the first one is surely the winner. Word economy plays a big role in writing. You must have heard about the golden rule: Omit needless words. Thus, if you can express your views clearly with fewer words, then you probably should.

Clarity: Let’s look at the given sentence “A mistake was made.” Like many passive constructions, this sentence does not focus on the doer or the person who committed the mistake. Thus, it gives incomplete information to readers. Readers at this juncture are left frowning. What will they do? Very simple, they leave the site. They want you to specify who or what is doing the action.

In many cases it’s seen that the information on the doer is given later. For instance, “A mistake was made. It was definitely not a heinous crime but still a mistake is mistake. So, the dean called up Sushi”

Now let us look at the active construction: “Sushi made the mistake”. It clarifies things in a few seconds. Readers do not have to read the next few lines to get the complete info. (And readers scan web pages, they do not read each word of the passage.)

Thus usage of active constructions ensures that the readers can make sense of your writing.

Rigorous thinking: “Although Penelope shares heroic characteristics with her husband, Odysseus, she is not considered a hero.”

Who are the people who do not consider Penelope a hero? It’s difficult to tell. The reader might also conceivably think that the writer is referring to scholars, critics or modern readers. Some people might argue that it is a question of style – but if your style confuses people or it prevents them from understanding your ideas, then what’s the use of it?


  • good post…very informative… 🙂

  • simple….and to the point…
    I too agree with that the way things are expressed should be simple and stressing at the right agree.
    But I dont agree to the fact that this can or should be applied in all sort of writing ways…

    Well…if you have time….check a couple short stories i wrote sometime back…and shed in your comments…would love to know what it can be deduced to…

    mail me your comments…agarwal.piyu@gmail.com 😉

  • What the hell happened to my grammer while writing the above comment..!!?? Whateva ignore the mistakes.. 😉

  • Hey piyush checked the site but dint find your stories 🙁

  • Pingback: i 40 construction

  • Hi…
    dont know how come you din find them…
    sending you a more specific link…

    here..there are 3 stories:
    Perfect Gift, Bloody Business & The Reason I am here…

    and a poem…(hindi)
    Lalu’s love song for rabiri…

  • Hey Piyush, I read the story but could not post a comment as I am not a member of Sulekha. I read the short story named Bloody business, nice one. I believe that human beings devoid of emotions are nothin but machines. However, I do not agree with “business does not involve emotions”….after all people do business to make money. Isn’t that urge to earn more is a kind of feeling?

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