Writing with Active Verbs


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Passive and Active Verbs – How StyleWriter encourages you to write with active verbs.

All authorities on good writing recommend you change passive verbs to improve your writing style.

Passive and Active Verbs - How StyleWriter encourages you to write with active verbs

What is a passive verb.  It’s the verb to be combining with the past participle of another word.  Let’s explain this simply.  The verb ‘to be’ (is, was, were, be, being, been) + the past participle of another verb.  This of the past participle as the as the past tense of another verb, such as taught, decided, deserted.  Combining the two makes a passive verb.  So is taught, were decided and been suddenly deserted are passive verbs.

Good writing keeps passive verbs well under control because they are long-winded, often ambiguous and do not use the standard subject-verb-object order of most of our language.

Active Verbs Examples

You can get rid of passive verbs in the following ways.

  1.  Put the subject first.
    Passive and Active Verbs 1- How StyleWriter encourages you to write with active verbs

Here’s another example:

Passive:  The place was deserted when Robin entered the room.
Active     Robin entered the deserted room.

 2. Delete as much as the passive verb as you can (often the verb ‘to be’)


Here’s another example:

Passive:  This brochure was designed to illustrate a house plan that has been made available with every new Acme house that is bought this month.

Active:   This brochure illustrates a house plan available with every new Acme house bought this month.

As well as changing the passive verbs into active verbs, we also remove many other unnecessary words.  This tightens the prose and makes it more powerful and direct.

StyleWriter’s Passive Verbs Index

You should aim to have a passive index of ten or below (representing an average of one passive verb for every ten sentences).  That’s the score of all good journalists and bestselling writers.

Passive Verb Tip:

Begin most of your sentences with the main subject followed by the verb:

  • Sarah wanted…
  • My Manager asked…
  • Sales rose…

In this way, you’ll follow the natural word order of most spoken sentences, cut down on passive verbs and write concisely.

StyleWriter helps you avoid passive verbs, by finding them in your text.  The program works out the Passive Index for the document and gives you a rating from Excellent to Bad so you know if you have too many.  The program highlights them in your text, reminds you to use active verbs and offers a help screen.

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