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Sunday, March 3

Sunday Writing Tip: Revise Unnecessary Passive Voice

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Each week, I’ll offer a tip you can take and apply to your WIP to help improve it. They’ll be easy to do and shouldn’t take long, so they’ll be tips you can do without taking up your Sunday. Though I do reserve the right to offer a good tip now and then that will take longer—but only because it would apply to the entire manuscript.

This week, revise unnecessary passive voice.


Passive voice is when the subject of the sentence gets all the action instead of the subject doing the acting. Such as, “The ball was thrown by Troy” vs. “Troy threw the ball.”

The easiest way to find passive voice, is to look for "to be" verbs: is, am, are, was, were, be, have, had, has, do, does, did, has been, have been, had been, will be, will have been, being. By is another red flag word often seen mixed in with passive voice, such as “Kenny was run over by the runaway snowmobile” vs. “The runaway snowmobile ran over Kenny.”

Search for these red flag words and determine if the subject is acting or being acted upon. Rewrite any passive sentences that don’t need to be passive. Sometimes, the passive voice is the right thing for the sentence, so don’t feel you need to change every instance of it.

For more on passive voice in your novel, try this article:

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