EDITING 101: 61 – Passive Voice versus Passive Verbs…

Are you using Passive voice in your writing? I know I struggle with it. Here, The Stroy Reading Ape offers some advice.

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Passive Voice versus Passive Verbs

You may have heard of the great advice to get rid of the extra “to be” verbs as you self-edit. I concur with that task. Not only is it boring for the reader, but using passive verbs makes your writing weak. That’s why they’re termed…well…passive verbs.

However, contrary to what some people believe, every use of “was”—or another form of the verb “to be”—is not inherently using the passive voice. “Was” is the legitimate past tense of “to be” and in many cases is 100% correct. Unfortunately, some people who call themselves editors don’t recognize the difference and ruthlessly edit out every instance of “was” in a manuscript.

These are legitimate, correct uses of the past tense of “to be” (although in the last one, you could get rid of the “to be” helper verb and just write “waited”):

The sky was blue.

The man…

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  1. Yes, the passive voice has been used by me. Seeing how this is a problem is something of which I am not capable. Okay, actually, there has been difficulty writing this comment. The active voice appears to be my instinctive preference. It has proven equally challenging not to sound like Yoda.

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    1. The main thing I have issues with is when someone constantly uses the word “was.” I know there are times when it’s necessary, but most times the sentence can be rewritten to read better. What I strive for is making my works resemble a scene from a movie. Aim for action.

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