Friday, June 26, 2009

New Editing Column Each Friday

Kathy Ide’s Editing Tips
© Kathy Ide, 2009



In this column, freelance author, editor, and speaker Kathy Ide shares tips on self-editing your manuscript.

ACTIVE VS. PASSIVE VERBS

Wherever possible, strive to use strong, precise verbs rather than weak, vague verbs. Instead of saying, “They were going,” write, “They went.” Or better yet, show how they went. “They jogged,” “They raced,” “They ambled,” for example. The more description you can fit into a single action verb, the better.

EXAMPLES:

Passive: It is believed by Sue that a curfew must be placed on her son, Matthew.
Active: Sue believes that she must place a curfew on her son, Matthew.

Passive: It was earlier demonstrated that Matthew could be intimidated by too much freedom.
Active: Friday’s party showed Sue that too much freedom could intimidate Matthew.

Passive verbs often indicate that a subject exists, or that something happens to the subject. Active verbs describe something a subject does.

Passive: Andrew had dark, curly hair and a bushy beard.
Active: Andrew ran his fingers through his dark, curly hair and stroked his bushy beard.

Passive: Two cups of coffee were on the table.
Active: Joe picked up two cups of coffee from the table.

NOTE: Verb phrases that include is, was, are, were, be, been, would, could, has, had, have, etc. are usually passive.

In nonfiction, there are a few acceptable reasons to use passive verbs:

1. To emphasize the action rather than the subject.
Example: Jim’s bioengineering proposal was approved by the committee.

2. To keep the subject and focus consistent throughout a passage.
Example: The astrobiology department presented a controversial proposal to the committee. After long debate, the proposal was endorsed by ...

3. To be tactful by not naming the subject.
Example: The e-mail message was misinterpreted.

4. To describe a condition in which the subject is unknown or irrelevant to the sentence.
Example: Every year, many people are diagnosed with Environmental Illness.

5. To create an authoritative tone.
Example: Visitors are not allowed after 9:00 p.m.

In all other instances, and in all fiction writing, use active verbs in place of passive ones wherever feasible.

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NOTE: It is an infringement of copyright law to reproduce this
publication, in part or in whole, without the express permission of the
author. To request permission, please e-mail Kathy@KathyIde.com.

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AUTHOR BIO:

Kathy Ide has been writing for publication since 1988. She has written books, articles, play and movie scripts, short stories, devotionals, and curriculum. She is a full-time freelance editor, offering a full range of editorial services for aspiring writers, established authors, commercial book publishers, subsidy publishers, and magazines. Her services include proofreading, copyediting, substantive/content editing, coauthoring, ghostwriting, and mentoring/coaching. She also speaks at writers’ conferences across the country. She is the founder and coordinator of The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network (www.TheChristianPEN.com) and the Christian Editor Network (www.ChristianEditor.com). To find out more, please visit www.KathyIde.com.



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1 comment:

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Kathy -

Thank you for a timely column. I'm editing my novel right now.

Blessings,
Susan :)