Writing style tip: Avoiding passive voice

I’m currently reading a friend’s piece and giving her some notes on it. I love doing this for friends because it just makes me more proud of them than I already am. It also makes me feel good to help them in anyway I can.

In additional to all the warm and fuzzes, it’s a great way to get into the revising mind frame, which I have to be seeing that I’m revising my own piece for publication. One of the best ways I like to get into this mind frame is reading books like On Writing Well and The Elements of Style. I also like to devour grammar books, or at least leaf through them.

I’m currently in American Heritage’s Book of English Usage and saw this passage that I underlined many moons ago when I was trying to fix my passive voice problem.

“A good test is to look down the page and circle (or make note of) every form of the verb be (is, are, was, were, etc.) and any other week verbs like seem, appear, and exist. If the page is covered with circles (or if you’ve grown tired of counting), you should consider rewriting the page using active verbs and the active voice.”

It must have worked because it’s rare the notes I get back now on passive voice. My Achilles heal? Subject verb agreement and tenses. Every. Single. Time.

Hope this is helpful. Back to work I go!

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