10 DIY EDITING TIPS for a Smoothly Written Ride! Tip #4—Active Writing

By Deborah S. Nelson, Author-Speaker-Publishing Coach

clean up your writing

Use active verbs over passive voice.


Writing Sample #1

There is no worse way to begin a sentence than with the words, “There is” … To create engaging and intriguing writing, avoid starting sentences with “there is.” Writing riddled with “there is” and “there was” is, (yawn) just plain boring. Those who write like this will find their writing to be dull, dry, and dead; and there are few who will want to read it.

We are going to rewrite that piece in a minute. But first, I want to explain that “there is” or “there was” are written in the passive voice. Anytime you see these words, get your red pen out and slash them. Hit the delete button! Use action verbs to paint the word picture instead of passive connector words. Perhaps you do not understand why your writing lacks the excitement you want. For good writing, replace all the “there is” and “there was” with action words.

10 DIY Self-Editing Tips for a Smoothly Written Ride by Deborah S. Nelson

REWRITE—Writing Sample #1

I personally know a few exhausted words; and I cannot imagine a weaker way to start a sentence, than with them. These old, worn out words remind me of the dull, dry, lifeless dirt underfoot the killers at a Wild West sundown shoot-out. To write with engaging intrigue, avoid starting sentences with “there is” and “there was.” The writer who does so will surely drop dead in the shoot-out of words.

I rewrote the WRITING SAMPLE #1 above to avoid the use of the passive voice. The verb “is” is a connector word and although it is a verb, “is” is not an action verb. Find exciting action verbs to paint a picture when you write. Both sample paragraphs were written above use the same number of words. The easiest way to clean up the passive voice is to rewrite all sentences that use the words, “there is,” or “there was.” This will actually teach you to write in a much more action-packed way.

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Writing Sample #2 (Random Sample from the Internet)

It had hat shelves and coat racks along both sides. There were double doors leading into the sanctuary, which was plain but neatThere was a carpeted main aisle that ran from the doors to the altar. There were neat rows of oak pews on both sides of the aisle. Secondary aisles ran along both sides of the church between the pews and the windows. On the raised platform in front, there was an altar, a lectern, and behind that were two rows of chairs for the choir. There was a fairly new piano on the left side of the platform … (101 words, pink marks problem areas)

REWRITE—Writing Sample #2

Typical of most church settings, friendly coat racks and hat shelves lined its entryway. Double doors opened to a rich red-carpeted aisle; and pointed to the sanctuary’s alter. A peaceful ambiance bordered the neat rows of oak pews situated near each side of the main aisle. Secondary aisles framed more pews near windowed walls. In front, in the center behind the alter—a raised platform holds a lectern, plus a brand new piano sitting to the left, accompanied by choir seating. (81 words)

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