Sunday, February 15, 2009

Passive-vs-Active Verbs

At a recent Northern Colorado Writers coffee, a new writer was asking about passive verbs. He had heard people talk about making his writing more active, but wasn't really sure what that meant. This is a topic that comes up all the time with new and even experienced writers.

Here are some examples that might help you. The first sentence in each group is written with a passive voice, with the passive section in italics and the second sentence shows how to make it more active.

Sheila was the winner of the race.
Sheila won the race.

The computer was destroyed by a lightning bolt.
A lightning bolt destroyed the computer.

The entire book was read by only two students in the class.
Only two students in the class read the entire book.

The boy was scratched by the cat.
The cat scratched the boy.

My essay was graded by Dr. Black.
Dr. Black graded my essay.

Action on the proposal is being considered by Dr. Dennis.
Dr. Dennis is considering action on the proposal.

The door was slammed by my roommate.
My roommate slammed the door.

Announcements of Brown Bag Lunch topics will be published in the McKendree Review each week.
The McKendree Review publishes announcements of the Brown Bag Lunch topics each week.

You may not be able to get rid of every passive verb in your writing and still have it flow. But the more you can change you writing to active voice, the better your writing will be.

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