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Passive verbs are for zombies

When I first started writing, I struggled with the passive voice. I remember one of my writing mentors drawing it to my attention. In an early chapter of my memoir I had too many “woulds,” “coulds,” and linking verbs. All of this led to my reader feeling distanced from my story.

As storytellers, we want to engage our readers. One way to do this is by using active verbs.

Here’s the difference:

He kissed her. (active)

She was kissed. (passive)

In this grammarly post, you’ll find a memorable way to determine if you’re writing in active or passive voice: insert the phrase “by zombies” after the verb. If the sentence makes sense, it’s passive.

He kissed (by zombies) her.  Doesn’t make sense so it’s an active verb.

She was kissed (by zombies). Makes sense so it’s a passive verb. Get rid of it!

In honor of Halloween, read through a page of your work-in-progress and insert “by zombies” after each verb. Count how many passive verbs vs. active verbs you have. Try to improve your ratio of active to passive.

For more tips on creating stronger verbs, read my earlier post, “Two Steps to Stronger Verbs.”

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Great seasonal writing exercise to eliminate passive voice. Look for the zombie verbs and get rid of them.

    October 24, 2012

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