Passive Verbs

Passive verbs create no action in your sentences.  They often make your sentences wordy.  Yet, many sentences simply cannot exist without them.

Here is an example. Right there. In that sentence, “Here is an example,” I use the most common passive verb: “is.”

Its simplicity is what we love about it.

Or, said another way (without the passive verb): We love its simplicity.

See the difference?

Writers struggle with passive verbs precisely because we need them. The problem is, we tend to rely on them too heavily sometimes.  Writers typically fill their freewriting and pre-writing with passive verbs unintentionally because the words sit, ready to jump onto the page in ways that more complex verbs might not.  Through revision, writers eliminate passive verbs and passive construction to craft more active sentences.

Keep a list of the passive verbs nearby when you write. When you are ready to revise, insert some of the passive verbs into the ‘find’ function in your word processing program.  Inevitably, the words will repeat more times than you would like to count. With that information in front of you, choose ten places in your document to replace the passive verb with another, more active one. Once you practice this exercise a few times, you will revise your passive verbs much more quickly – probably as you type them.

Remember, we need these passive verbs as linking verbs.  Just be cautious about their frequency and use them intentionally.