Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Too ManyPassive Verbs Make For Boring Reading


When I critique someone's work, I am sometimes overwhelmed by the number of passive verbs used. We warn about not repeating words too close together, but somehow we ignore the large number of words like was, were, is are sprinkled like daisies in a field throughout our story or essay. It's terribly easy to fall into this habit. And it can beceome a habit. 

It also becomes the lazy way of writing. And it creates boredom in your story or essay. Using passive verbs tells me that something is being done to the subject and that gets tiresome. I would much prefer reading about the subject doing something. 

After you write your first draft, go back and highlight all the passive verbs. You might be shocked at the vast number of yellow splotches throughout your document. One by one, check to see if you can make each of those passives into active verbs. 

You cannot just substitute a word and call it done. You may have to reverse the order of your sentence to make the active verb fit into the sentence. That's alright. It's probably going to make it read better anyway. 

You've also read time and again that you should limit the use of adverbs. Using the passive is or was calls for more adverbs. She is what?  He was what? Another reason to limit those passive verbs.

Am I saying to never, ever use a passive verb? No. You will use them occasionally but don't make a habit of doing so. 

There are programs to help you count the number of times a specific word is used. I'm not going to recommend one over the other, so use a search engine to find them and then decide which one works best for you. 

Be conscious of eliminating passive verbs. The more you use active verbs, the easier they will come to you. Using the active verbs becomes a habit just as using those passive ones were habitual, too. 

It's a small thing but it can make a difference in the way your prose reads. Something to work on every time you write a new piece.

No comments:

Post a Comment