Thursday, September 4, 2008

How to Edit for Passive Voice.

Have you ever wondered how to avoid this simple problem? These simple steps can help avoid falling into the common trap of using too much passive voice.

When editing for Passive Voice it is time to seek out and replace the most common passive voice VERBS.

Using 'find' in Word docs is one simple way. Going through your ms with a red pen is another. Which ever way you choose, the time spent is worthwhile.

First, look for the two worst offenders, 'WAS' and 'WERE'. Where these occur try to replace them, even if it means re writing the sentence. One helpful bit of advice I was given was to try to describe what is happening in terms that can be illustrated.

For example.. I have used this before, so bear with me... "He was angry." Try to describe his anger. How did the viewer know he was angry. His face grew red, his teeth ground, his pulserate quickened. His temper frayed. etc.
"They were alone" Here there is a great opportunity to address all the senses. Don't just rely on sight.. What can the subject hear, or what doesn't the subject hear... or smell or feel that helps describe their isolation?

Ok, once you begin to find those pesky WAS and WERE verbs, it is time to go further and seek out and destroy examples of static verbs (other forms of the verb TO BE) such as: am, is, are, be, being, been. Then we have the dreaded..had, have, has, do, did, does, and we finish with the threesome, could, should and would.

You will have already begun to find your writing is stronger and more impressive as you learn to replace these lazy verbs with more aggressive, descriptive verbs.

It doesn't end there. Look for any instances where you might have over used got, get, went, and put.

That's enough for now. If there are any questions, please contact me. It sounds straight forward, but there are times when even these simple solutions become confusing. Remember 'all things in moderation.'

Keep writing.

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