95% Reading ease, 100% Passive Voice! Ha!


Paul Wallis, Sydney Media JamIf there’s one thing writers hate, it’s being told how to write. The “no passive voice” crowd in particular are annoying.

Passive voice is defined by dictionary.com as “A verb is in the passive voice when the subject of the sentence is acted on by the verb. For example, in “The ball was thrown by the pitcher,” the ball (the subject) receives the action of the verb, and was thrown is in the passive voice.”

This is narrative form, telling a story. For some reason, passive voice is a big no-no by those who seem to think active voice is better. Active voice is defined as “When the verb of a sentence is in the active voice, the subject is doing the acting, as in the sentence “Kevin hit the ball.” Kevin (the subject of the sentence) acts in relation to the ball.”

OK, fascinating baseball analogies aside, this is “the cat sat on the mat” as the definition of good English usage. Well, is it? It’s dumbing down, in any language.

I’d love to say I did this deliberately, but it was accidental. I got 100% passive voice on the Flesch Readability Statistics, with 95% readability. Read ‘em and weep, guys:


To clarify: Passive voice, the big no-no, scores 95% on readability ease. Why? Because it works that well.  The Flesch scale is one of the standard definitions used for readability. It’s derived from a range of elements, including numbers of syllables in words.

My article was a business article, hence the blurring of the content, which was done under contract. The reading scale is 4.2, pretty low and the article was about dentistry. It was pretty straightforward, about dental services, in which cats don’t need to sit on mats. It was a simple narrative about those services.

(My highest grade so far is 18, post-grad level., which was done for Innocentive some years ago.)

Now the rant, fully justifiable in my not very humble opinion:

Great writers weren’t told how to write. Shakespeare didn’t have a style guide, and apparently few qualms about using passive voice. Imagine Brave New World, A Room of One’s Own or Candide in active voice only; hideous, cumbersome and out of step with the content.

Paul Wallis books, sydney media jam

This book is all about creative ideas. Nobody has yet died of reading it, but it’s a pretty tough call for those not familiar with working with ideas. “Passive voice”, eh?

The more restrictions you put on writing, the more restricted writing is likely to be in terms of expression abilities. If you want great writers, don’t lumber them with ridiculous rules and conventions. This is like “no consecutive fifths” as a no-no in music; it’s rubbish. There’s no good reason for not playing consecutive similar chords, just that theory.

Some expressions need to be beyond cats sitting on mats. Just because you’re simple minded, apparently to the point of obsession, doesn’t mean writers need to write simply to please you. Creative writing isn’t about you. Commercial writing is about delivering a message, not cheering up people with nothing better to do than bitch about usage.

Not all concepts are simple; many have to be qualified or otherwise explained in context with statements. Passive expressions convey wider meanings, far more so than active verbs.

How do you have a story without a narrative? No storyline, just current verbs?

The cat sat on the mat.

The mat did nothing.

We waited for more information.


Bill shot George.

George fell down.

We waited for more information.

Descriptive, isn’t it? Real attention-grabbers, packed with background and contexts, not. These things don’t even have situational contexts, unless someone has cheated and put in some narrative to explain things like who Bill and George might be.

No other info but this step by step, plodding slop. I can understand it from a writing perspective – It’s a great way of writing a 2000 page novel where 20 would do. It’s inefficient, but it looks like you’re really writing, when you could write crap like that in your sleep. You could get the cat to do it, in fact.

These dumb sentences are just continuums. They go as far as a specific action, and no further.

Point made? I think so.

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media Jam, Paul Wallis books

For those wondering – I’m still trying to publish on SMJ. Very irritating, but getting on top of it at last.

The Bohemian Equations


the bohemian equations

The universe. Full of equations. Look at the image and see where comprehension stops. Then become a consultant.

Yes, if you’re in the arts, trying to escape the arts, or wondering why the wallpaper is running your life, I have some endearing little tips expressed as equations and rational statements which can be used to really annoy people.

These statements are in the form of equations, so desiccated little pseudo Bohemian bastards can pretend to understand them and to reduce the strain of self-expression on real Bohos in real time. They may be sprinkled in “conversations” and other spiritual enemas for that rich inner glow.


A selection from The Bohemian Equations:

  • Suits + art = Crap.
  • Valley girl comedians + media = Fascism.
  • Plagiarism + Lack of talent = Celebrity.
  • Politics + anything = Disasters for generations.
  • Money + mediocrity = Megalomaniacs.
  • Cliché + salary = Career.
  • Religion + morons = Genocide.
  • Trolls = Losers.
  • Business culture + anything = Absurdities.
  • Skank science + press releases = Class actions.
  • Finance sector + anything = Negative dollar numbers.
  • Culture + 21st century = Farce wipes.
  • Future + Ignoramuses = 21st century so far.
  • Millennials + world = Get a better travel agent, for god’s sake.
  • Management science + world = Verbose diseases.
  • PhD + rigor mortis culture = Get a cat instead.

Like all good mathematical formulae, the products of these equations can be used to derive further equations and perhaps accidental consciousness:

For example:

Crap + Fascism = Valley girl suits doing lousy comedy.

Irrefutable. Impeccable. Endearing. Wearable.

Paul Wallis, Live Lazy and Love It, AmazonYou can see how valuable these equations are in daily life. So when you’re, like, hyuck,  goose-stepping on down to your next comedy gig, leaving frustrated sewers wherever you go – You can be reassured by these equations that your next load of crap will be like “whoa ho bro”, ‘n other really interesting stuff that you do.

(Sorry for using your entire vocabulary in that sentence guys, but, y’know, hard to avoid.)

Using The Bohemian Equations

Obviously, elements in The Bohemian Equations can be almost anything, but – You need to know the properties of the elements to make more advanced equations. There’s a real risk that you’ll commit that terrible crime of crimes, knowing what you’re talking about, but…meh… Not like they’ll remember it 5 seconds later or anything, is it?

For example:

Farce wipes – verbose diseases x trolls = 21st century management science.

Elegant, eh?

Make your own Bohemian Equations. Inflict them on defenceless societies. Gloat. Better still, make an app….


Paul Wallis, Sydney Media Jam, Paul Wallis books

Intellectual superiority- A user’s guide


Paul Wallis, Sydney Media Jam

Paul Wallis books, sydney media jam

This book is all about creative ideas. Nobody has yet died of reading it, but it’s a pretty tough call for those not familiar with working with ideas.

One of the most common traits in post-relevant society is a demand to be intellectually superior to something. This adorable hobby of superiority is part of a wider move to Total Applied Delusion, (TAD) the new viral trend among people with no apparent use for their minds or themselves.

This trend is much noted among the TAD intelligentsia, who have been making surprising breakthroughs in the areas of total futility and nauseating self-congratulation on a 24/7/365.25 basis. The world is run by these people, and the results are easy enough to see. Unavoidable, in fact, if you still watch the series of outtakes now known as modern media.

The question is what sort of people need to be constantly enforcing their claims to intellectual superiority? Like power, intellectual superiority is most in demand among those who don’t have it. Two year old children do this regularly, but grow out of it. The TAD crowd apparently don’t.

There is a funny side to this. To see a group of creatures a few percentage of genome removed from actual chimpanzees demanding acknowledgement of their intellectual superiority is fascinating. The TADs can’t even find a use for themselves, and when asked for clarification of any point, instantly quote other people as their proof of intellectual superiority.

Their lives, in fact, are a combination of quotes and citations of others. Their role models, invariably, are impeccable. Why do intellectually superior people need role models? Because there’s something missing internally? Some lack of individuality? Or because, like the quotes these role models are good things to hide behind?

One of the most interesting ways of looking at anybody is in a context. Imagine that, a person with a context. How innovative. Consider the idea of intellectual superiority in a world which would barely qualify as a broken-down sewer.

Enforcing one’s intellectual superiority

Ads_Cover_for_KindleWhat, you may ask from your palatial pollution-saturated tower, does one do in this environment to prove one’s intellectual superiority?

Clearly, the demanding role of intellectual superiority demands:

Pomposity in all things- One does not eat toast, one consumes a range of modulated carbohydrates and biological compounds, to give one the strength to impart one’s wisdom.

A tedious, pedantic approach to consideration of anything- Each word in a sentence must be elaborated until other people start dying.

Impeccable credentials, however obtained- Preferably accompanied by total lack of achievement of any kind, which might undermine the image of intellectual superiority. (One may often find intellectual superiority products in local supermarkets, often at a discount, if one is interested in flaunting one’s magnificence.)

A role- An infinite obsession with one’s role in any social group, however pointless or necrosis-inducing that group may be. Each nuance of these manic associations must be grounds for self-worship.

A completely inaccurate, dishonest vision of oneself- One is not a mere ridiculous occupier/molester of furniture, but a dynamic being, ruling the world with one’s non-existent personality alone.

Didn't know that, eh?

Didn’t know that, eh?

A vast, verbose emptiness where there’s supposed to be a person- This is invaluable when mixing with other intellectual vacuums and precludes any necessity for actual personal existence of any kind.  A sucking synergy which cleans floors, or at least worries them, is the usual result. There’s nothing quite like a group of people with nothing to say which never shuts up on any subject.

So get ye hence, vermin, and proclaim thy intellectual superiority to the rotting winds.  Snivel thy glorious claims to the septic tank of human society. Putresce ye elegantly among the corpses. Grovel to thy maggot-eaten gods of self-obsession.

Render thy pustules of thought to the perverse filthy poverty of a future grown sick on thee and thy kind’s eternal spiritual flatulence. May thy zits of wisdom follow thee unto a well-deserved and unremarked oblivion, where thee shall find eternal emptiness to match thyselves.


NOTE; SMJ website is on hiatus until I can find some decent website building software. Don’t hold your breath.