Editing Tip Tuesday

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Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

I teach a creative writing workshop to middle school students about writing in the active voice. Active voice gives writing more punch. Passive writing makes writing weak. Even if you don’t write fiction, all writing can benefit from active voice.

The easiest way to learn how to write in active voice is to avoid the passive. Stay away from the verb “to be” and all its conjugations. Am, are, was, were, be, being, been. In passive voice the subject of the sentence is being acted upon. In active voice the subject does the action.

“I am getting a divorce.” vs. “I divorced his sorry behind.” See the difference? Using active voice will also tell a lot about the character speaking. What kind of words does this person choose to use?

You might be sitting there saying, “Stacey, I absolutely must use a “to be” verb in this sentence.” If you can’t live without “to be” in a few sentences, leave it in. I would encourage you to rewrite the sentence until it is active. A way exists. (As apposed to: there must be a way to write a better sentence.)

Using the passive voice also makes sentences wordy. See sentence above. Active voice will trim your words making each one work hard for you. You want your words sweating by the time you’re done.

You can do a search and find for all “to be” words in your document or read it out loud. Your words will surprise you.

Any questions?

I still have two spots available for anyone who would like the first five pages of the WIP edited for free. Comment below and I’ll send you an email with more details. I love hearing from you. Happy editing.

 

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