Thursday, August 20, 2015

Lazy Verbs

Verbs come in two types: active and passive. With a passive verb, something is being done to the subject. For example: Jane was kissed by John. Jane is the recipient of the action. With an active verb, the subject of the sentence is doing the action. For example: Jane kissed John. Jan is now the performer of the action. And at this point, you probably know where this is going.

Passive verbs bad!

Yes, passive verbs are a form of weak writing you should always strive to avoid. I mean, with most things, there are exceptions to every rule, and passive verbs do have their place in writing. Those places, however, are few and far between.

These words aren’t wrong, per se, but they’re helping verbs that are almost always paired with another verb. Like in the above example, Jane was kissed. You have was (helping verb) + kissed (main verb). Let's take a look at some simple fixes to get rid of the helping verb was.

Avoid: Jane was walking down the street.
Try: Jane walked down the street.

Avoid: Jane and John were kissing behind the diner.
Try: Jane and John kissed behind the diner.

Now, let's try our hand at some more complex changes. We're still striving for the same objective here. We want the noun in the sentence to be performing the action.

Avoid: The long drive was bordered by palm trees.
TryPalm trees bordered the long drive.

Avoid: John was struck by another car.
Try: Another car struck John.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with the verb “move,” it’s very nondescript. Take the following sentence.

"She moved across the street.”

Okay, so she moved. but how did she move? This word doesn’t say anything visually about that. Should could have walked, moseyed, skipped, jogged or did cartwheels. We really don’t know.

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