Advice Editing Writing

Vampire Verbs!

Verbs might be the single most important item found in your sentences. The two main classifications for verbs are Passive and Active. This article divides the classes and shows their differences.

This section highlights the use of Active verbs, those most important to general writing.

Active Verbs:

This is the method we are encouraged to write with. Passive writing drains your creative flare, it masks action with words. Passive voice sucks the ferocity of your writing out and leaves nothing, but inactive words. Writing in the active voice keeps your material simple, sharp, and immediate. It paints a clear picture for your reader and keeps them actively reading. There is a simple equation to follow when writing in active voice:

Subject + Verb + Direct Object

The best teacher is example, below are a few sets of sentences. One written in passive voice and one in the active voice:


“The donation was given to the charity by the Jones family.”


“The Jones family gave the donation.”


“The winners were chosen by the judges.”


“The judges chose the winners.”


“The final decision was discussed by the team.”


“The team discussed the final decision.”


“The tests have been reanalyzed by the medical staff.”


“The medical staff reanalyzed the tests.”


“The start button should be pushed down by the next person.”


“The next person should push down the start button.”


“The car was driven by Monica.”


“Monica drove the car.”


Passive ( Writing in Passive Voice):

Creative writers should avoid the passive voice as much as possible. It is occasionally acceptable among technical and scientific authors, but even then shouldn’t be solely relied upon. In fiction, it adds words and creates needless material which your readers must endure. This can be infuriating if your reader is eager to reach the story’s climax.

Experienced authors often use small snippets of passive voice to signify a change of some kind, in scene or story, but even then it should only be used sparingly. Until an author has achieved a seasoned level of writing, passive voice should be avoided. Even the most minor inclusion can  lead to paragraphs or even pages of passive voice.


Locating passive or active verbs is much simpler when it’s not your work. Many newer writers fall beneath a false sense of confidence. They believe their own passive and active sentences will be as simple to find as the ones used here.

When you’re in the middle of a 80,000 word novel, the task becomes much harder. Passive verbs are usually found with a variation of “to be,” and often “was” or “were.” When editing your own material, look for this construction. Most likely you will find a passive verb phrase near by.

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