Nov 6, 2009

Editing 101

Passive verbs. Half the battle is figuring out what they are, so you incorporate them much less the next time around.  

Many people also don't realize their abuse of the "to be" verb. (am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been, become, became) First off, I suggest using the Find/Highlight option on your computer to check how often you're using them. You may or may not be surprised how much these words eat their way into your pages.

Today, I'm going to talk about was, were, and other variations of the "state of being." 

"Was" and "were" are my safety blanket. They're the verbs I use when nothing else pops into my mind.  If you are using these verbs, I can guarantee you there is a stronger, more active verb just itching to be used.

1. How to recognize active and passive sentences.
a. Find the subject (the MC of the sentence so to speak)
b. Find the main verb (the action that the sentence identifies)
c. Examine the relationship between the subject and main verb
-Do the subject perform the action of the main verb? (If yes, then its active.)
-Doe the subject sit there while something else performs an action? (If yes, your sentence is passive, my friend.)
-Can't tell? If the main verb is a linking verb (the ones mentioned above) then the verb functions like an equal sing. There's no action involved.

2. Basic Examples
"I love you." --> Active
"You are loved by me." --> Passive

3. Difference between Passive Voice and Past Tense
a. Many people confuse the passive voice with the past tense. The most commong passive constructions also happen to be past tense (ex. I've been framed.), but "voice" has to do with who, while "tense" has to do with when.

Past Tense:  
Active: I taught  Passive: I was (have been) taught [by someone]
Present Tense: 
Active: I teach    Passive: I am (being) taught [by someone]

4. The Passive Voice is not always Wrong!
a. passive verbs are not automatically wrong. When used rarely and deliberately, the passive voice serves an important purpose.
-When you want to downplay an action
-When you want to downplay the character
-When the character is unknown

Here are some trickier examples of passive voice:

"Punctuality seems important." & "Remember to brush your teeth."

There's loads of information online that, when it comes time for editing, you can use for research. As for me, I found this information here. And, they have a lot more information on their website if, like me, you're working on draft 2.


S1nnerman said...

Good explanation. Taught me a lot :)