Gram’s Grimlins: Passive verbs
Take a look at your writing and see if this gremlin has overtaken your work: passive verbs.
The passive verbs come from “to be”: is, was, etc.
A simple way to make an improvement in your writing, especially in less casual work, is to
cut out minimize the passive and give life to your verbs.
How does one do this? It’s actually quite simple, and yet some will find it difficult at first.
2. Go back and read your writing and circle (or highlight) all the passive verbs.
3. Go back again and change the majority of them to active verbs.
This may take a bit of rewriting, but your writing will leap off the page instead of passively lying there once you have mastered this technique. Don’t remove all passive verbs, but make sure you don’t use them where an active/action verb would do better. Also remember that some writing requires more of a passive voice, so make sure you can do both.
A few examples:
Jan wants to be a writer. ♦ Jan dreams of a career as a writer.
After the geographical information has been reviewed…♦ After reviewing the geogrphical information…
The climate is a seasonal change. ♦ The climate changes seasonally.
The world, writing and otherwise, would be in utter chaos if we allowed our inner children (aka left brain) to follow their every inclination without the presence and guidance of their adult self. ♦ Utter chaos would rein if we allowed…..
Your turn: How would you eliminate the is in this sentence? Do you think it needs to be removed? Why? Why not?
Maintaining the wonder of childhood is a good thing, but that doesn’t mean we must remain children in every aspect of our lives.
Do you favor a passive voice in your writing? Can you see how an active voice would bring the writing/characters to life? Would you like to submit some examples or some samples for us to work on? Has the passive verb gremlin been attacking your writing?