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Wednesday, July 10, 2019


Editing for active voice

Passive: Including "to be" verbs is a way to make a sentence passive.
Active: A passive sentence includes "to be" verbs.

Passive: Sentences will be stronger if writers delete "to be" verbs.
Active: Authors who delete "to be" verbs write stronger sentences.

Passive: Forms of "to be" are: are, am, was, is, have been, has, will be, being, and will have been.
Active: Forms of "to be" include: are, am, was is, have been, has, will be, being, and will have been.

Passive: The girl was yelled at by her brother.
Active: The boy yelled at his sister.

Passive: The red tablecloth makes the celery stalks that are green look pretty.
Active: The green celery looks pretty on the red tablecloth.

Passive: The vest was worn without a shirt underneath.
Active: He wore a vest without a shirt underneath.

Passive: The funnel cake was eaten by a kid.
Active: The kid ate a funnel cake.

Passive: Overusing passive voice increases the chances of writing sentences that are unclear and repetitive.
Active: Overusing passive voice increases the chances of writing unclear and repetitive sentences.

Passive: Using active voice is a way to help clarify your written message.
Active: Active voice clarifies a written message.

Passive: Passive voice may be required in some scientific, medical, and technical writing.
Active: Scientific, medical, and technical writing may require passive voice.

Syntax and sentence order

Passive: To determine word order, the rules of syntax are necessary.
Active: Syntax determines word order.

Passive: English sentences are constructed using S-V-O (subject, verb, object) word order.
Active: English sentences follow S-V-O (subject, verb, object) word order.

Passive: O-V-S construction is passive.
Active: Passive construction uses O-V-S order.

Passive: The boat was driven by me. "The boat" = object, "was" = passive verb, "me" = subject.
Active: I drove the boat. "I" = subject, "drove" = verb, "boat" = object.

Passive: Maria was hated by Suzanne for many reasons.
Active: Suzanne hated Maria for many reasons.

Passive: Reducing the use of passive voice is one way to engage readers.
Active: Engage your reader by reducing passive voice.

Mary Horner struggles with active voice.
Active voice is a struggle for Mary Horner.

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Blogger Nicole Pyles said...

This post was perfectly timed for me! I mean .... I read your post at the perfect time! Haha. I'm editing a short story and.... Darn that passive voice!!!

6:59 AM  
Blogger Mary Horner said...

That's hysterical, Nicole! I have the same issue, and use my posts to help work out my own issues!

11:10 AM  
Blogger Connie Koehler said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4:06 PM  
Blogger Connie Koehler said...

Dear Mary Horner, thank you, so, kindly for sharing these helpful writing tips. I can use all the help I can get. Thank you, again.

4:12 PM  
Blogger Margo Dill said...

Mary: These are amazing. Love this idea you had for a post.

5:49 AM  
Anonymous Mary Elizabeth Horner said...

Thanks, Artbyfaith and Margo! It took me a long time to get it right, and I'm still not sure it is completely correct, but I also don't know if I made it clear that some passive sentences are just fine the way they are. Today I finished reading "This Boy's Life," by Tobias Wolff, and he used them beautifully in several instances.

10:47 PM  
Blogger Pat Wahler said...

Great post and so true. Readers are more engaged by active sentences.

9:35 AM  
Blogger Mary Horner said...

Thanks, Pat. I agree.

1:53 PM  

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