Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Stay Active -- Writing Tip

Verbs are action words, everyone knows that. And it’s a good idea to use the active form of verbs whenever possible.

One thing that will make your writing read better is to avoid gerunds and verb participles, by using the more active form of the verb. That helps keep you in "active" voice. Almost all "ing" words follow a "to be" verb–is, was, were, are – one that's in static, if not exactly passive voice.

In fact if you search for was, were, etc. you can pick up on those passive phrases and turn them around pretty easily. Instead of "He was still chuckling as he closed the trunk...," try "He chuckled as he closed the trunk." It’s more direct, more specific. Better writing. Do you see what I mean? This is no big thing, but the writing will feel more “participatory” to the reader if you do that.

Someone wrote in this week to ask where I get all these tips. I was a writing teacher for 25 years, first for local colleges and I led workshops for some conferences, and later I taught for Writer's Digest Correspondence School for 15 years. And since there isn't a writing mistake I haven't made myself, I've learned a lot the hard way, too.

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