Sometimes, writers allow the passive voice to creep into their work, weakening their writing as a result. For a debut author looking to get published, this could be enough to land his or her piece in the reject pile. For a student, this might rob them of that A+ their content would have otherwise earned.

These are just a few of the issues you’ll face if you use the passive voice in your writing. Today, we’ll show you some tips on how to fix this so that you can create a draft that’s cleaner and more impactful.

The Lowdown on the Passive Voice 

Why all this talk about the passive voice? How bad is it, really? To tell you the truth, it is not all that bad, but it is not all that great, either. The passive voice can make sentences sound mediocre and keep the overall work from living up to its true potential—not exactly a combination that gets you the nod of approval from editors.

This is why writers looking to get their stuff bought and published should employ the best passive voice checkers. This means utilizing online editing tools, working with experienced editors, and arming yourself with a keen set of eyes for detecting passive voice misuse.

When editing your paper, pay special attention to state-of-being or linking verbs. These are where you spot passive voice misuse. The word “by” is often indicative of the error, too.

Fixing the Passive Voice and Other Common Errors

You can’t expect editors to do everything. Foolproofing a paper also requires effort on your end to spot passive voice and other style and grammar errors.

1. Get Rid of Weak Verbs.

Knowing how to fix the passive voice helps you write sentences that pack more of a punch. You can start by replacing weak, definitive verbs with more expressive, undertone-rich ones. One indication of poor verb usage is the application of the word “very.” Certainly, there are more descriptive and concise verb alternatives than the ones modified by this adverb.

2. Edit Out Unintended Redundancy. 

Yes, repetition is sometimes necessary when you are trying to make a point. However, the issue here, specifically, is a tautology or needless repetition.

The more you practice writing with brevity, the more tautology evasion becomes second nature to you. You’ll simply be wired to construct sentences in the most direct manner where no word is decorative.

3. Avoid Using False Limbs.

The pressure to amp up the word count does not excuse the presence of false limbs. Unless you’re writing an academic piece, you want to keep these laconic phrases to a minimum.

Phrases like “at this point in history” or “with regard to” may sound fine in speech, but they barely do anything in writing except make sentences a mouthful. Keep your sentences brief and precise by refusing to incorporate false limbs in them.

4. Place the Adjective Before Your Noun. 

You are probably no stranger to writing this type of sentence: “He was dashing, cold, and blind to her affections.” Needless to say, that was neither the first nor the last time you wrote a dead verb as a precursor to an adjective or even a group of adjectives. The temptation to do so can be too strong sometimes.

However, it would be better to structure the sentence like this: “The dashing, cold, and unobservant young man took no notice of the young lady’s affections.” 

5. Change the Order of Words in Your Sentence. 

Shifting from passive to active is sometimes all in the sentence’s order. Just restructure your sentence so that the subject is addressed at the beginning of the sentence. That should rid it of the annoying passive voice. 

6. Cut Passive Voice not Used for Effect.

Remember how we said that using the passive voice in writing isn’t all that bad? Well, using them for “effect” is one of those times.

We each have a unique writing style that impacts how we narrate stories and structure sentences. So, as much of an odd choice, it is to use the passive form in some sentences, it might be simply what a writer’s particular brand of storytelling calls for.

However, outside of this, you want to stick to the active voice. This style of writing allows you to chronicle scenes or events in clearer detail and with more emotion.

7. Trim Wordiness.

There are several styles, apart from false limbs, that contribute to wordiness. Wordiness or verbiage often muddles the meaning of sentences and leaves them open to interpretation.

Generally, writers don’t want readers to confuse their message for something else. So, while verbiage isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it can make a piece less impactful. Of course, intentional verbiage is another story. Writers can use that to inject certain captivating elements into their prose.

Why Fix Passive Voice?

Clear and specific writing is what resonates with readers. Take your writing to this level by sifting out the dead verbs during revision. These seven tips should eliminate just about all of them.

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