How to spot and change the passive voice.

The Proof Angel

editing_and_proofreading_blog_990Yesterday we had a post about plain language.

One way to make your writing clearer is using active verbs rather than passive ones.

This post explains how to spot and change the passive voice.

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  1. Great that you’re posting these writing tips! Passive voice really is something we need to be aware of and change wherever possible and appropriate. The other thing I’ve become conscious of lately is the “perfect” tenses. I’m reading all of Tony Hillerman right now, really fun and interesting stories. He wasn’t a great craftsman, though, and I don’t know how some of his writing habits got through his editor. He writes in past perfect most of the time, as in: “Joe had gone to the store, where he had met Jim in the dairy section. Jim had been hunting for his favorite yogurt…”

    I scare my dog at times by shouting, “It’s bad enough that people write in past tense at all, let alone past perfect, for crying out loud! Just say “Joe went to the fucking grocery store where he met Jim, who was standing over the dairy case, perusing the yogurt selection. Jim had been trapped (past perfect passive appropriate) at the bottom of a deep pit for six days; he was very hungry.”

    1. I thought this post was especially helpful too. And I’m sure you’re not the only person that cringes at books written in past perfect tense. In most cases, bad writing equals bad reviews.

      1. It does, but master storytellers like Hillerman and L’amour somehow eluded the editorial chopping block. I’m a fan of historical fiction and memoir of the “Old West,” so I put up with it. My teeth are somewhat ground down…I fantasize about cleaning up the copy and issuing a New Revised Edition of some of the best stories, but both authors have daughters who keep a strong hand on the reins when it comes to their fathers’ work. I certainly wouldn’t want anyone “improving” MY father’s work, but he knew his craft minutely…which is probably why I notice stuff.

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