An important source of a text’s verve is its syntax; ideally, we would like it to be varied, fluid and elegant. The corrector flags certain problematic constructions that should be closely monitored: the passive voice, impersonal or negative constructions, verbless sentences and wordiness. These are not incorrect in themselves, neither are they to be excluded at all costs; however, they should be employed sparingly.
- Clicking on the options bar will show you sliders associated with each category of construction. You can choose whether to perform exhaustive checking or to speed things up by focussing only on the most blatant cases of the construction in question. See the tooltips associated with each of the slider’s positions to help you decide which one to select.
Passive constructions (in which the verb is conjugated with be and the subject undergoes the action rather than being the active agent, e.g.: the film was lauded by the critics) are useful when you want to focus on the object rather than the subject. Otherwise, an equivalent sentence in the active voice usually has more impact (e.g.: the critics lauded the film). A text with too many passives can seem impersonal or even disembodied.
Antidote can quickly locate the impersonal constructions in your text and help you avoid their overuse. Although they are at times useful, impersonal constructions have the disadvantage of moving the real subject to the end of the sentence. This is appropriate if you want to focus on the theme of the sentence. In other cases, however, an impersonal construction (e.g. it is imperative that…) can give the text a cumbersome feel.
Make sure that negative constructions effectively convey your intended meaning, particularly when a sentence contains more than one negation. It can be a challenge to understand multiple negations when they are embedded within each other or appear in succession (e.g., it isn’t impossible that she won't arrive on time). As a general matter of style, it is usually preferable to reformulate negative constructions as positive ones, provided that the negation is not essential to your message.
Because it expresses the action that links the subject and its object, the verb normally forms the nucleus of the sentence. Hence, a sentence without a verb, or a sentence whose nucleus is nonverbal, immediately appears shaky. The corrector highlights the sentences in your text that lack a main verb, allowing you to determine whether a paraphrase with an explicit subject and verb would be preferable.
- Note that in checking for verbless sentences, Antidote ignores titles.
- The number shown to the right of each detection shows the number of words in each verbless sentence. Longer verbless sentences are more likely to be the result of an omitted word, so you may wish to check them first.
A verb in the infinitive is said to be “split” when an adverb is placed between the particle to and the verb itself (e.g. to heartily agree). Split infinitives are widely accepted in both written and spoken English. Nonetheless, they are occasionally considered incorrect. If this concerns you, using this filter will allow you to locate and reformulate split infinitives if you consider it necessary.
This filter locates passages in which many words are used to express a relatively simple idea. These wordy constructions can usually be reformulated, making your text lighter and easier to read. For example, you may wish to replace what you can do is with you can, or in addition to with and.