Sunday, May 25, 2014



Pork chops were cooked by Dad.

Dad cooked pork chops.

While neither of these sentences are memorable, one of them is better. The second one. That’s because it uses an active rather than a passive voice.

Changing passive sentences to active sentences is a sure fire way to make your writing livelier and stronger.   Change the verb cooked to a more specific verb like fried or barbecued and the sentence improves even more.

Another way to look at is the subject should do the action rather than receive it.

Or, the subject of the sentence should be doing something – not having something done to it or by it. The verbs should be strong and carefully chose.

When he opens his eyes, he is being stared at by Constable Diggins.

When he opens his eyes, Constable Diggins is staring at him.

In both examples, the first sentence, as well as being weak, is clumsy to read. It slows the pace. It’s also a tiny bit longer – only two words but that can add up to a lot in an entire manuscript and we’re always trying to cut out those unnecessary words, right?

That little word “by” is often a clue that the voice is passive.  Watch for it.

Get rid of all your passive sentences? No. But stick to the active voice whenever you can. And take time to find the best verb possible.

Favourite Kid’s Book of the Week:

The Lynching of Louie Sam by Elizabeth Stewart

A compelling historical novel.

Amazon: Inspired by the true story of the lynching, recently acknowledged as a historical injustice by Washington State, this powerful novel offers a stark depiction of historical racism and the harshness of settler life. The story will provoke readers to reflect on the dangers of mob mentality and the importance of speaking up for what's right.  

From Quill and Quire: Stewart’s prose is relatively unadorned, keeping the book’s excitement level high. The few rhetorical flourishes she includes are deft, as when she closes a chapter featuring the mob’s pursuit of Louie Sam with an observation of George’s horse walking in the dark: “All he needed to do was follow the pack.” A clear nod to the diseased morality of the lynch mob, the comment exemplifies the book’s thematic heart.

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