For those of you who might not be familiar with this... most editors today do not want writers using the passive forms of the verb 'to be,' that is to say, is, are, were, etc.
So a sentence like, We are driving to my sister's would be considered passive because of the helping verb 'are' coupled with the 'ing' ending of the verb 'drive.' (that's a double whammy, BTW) (Personally, we used to call that the present participle and it was fine to use in school. As a matter of fact, we had to learn HOW to use it and were tested on it. And now, we're not allowed to use it...)
So I've been reading up on the Passive Voice and how to avoid it. One article I read was pretty helpful. It stated that most times the verb 'to be' pops up when you are using the object of the action as the subject of the sentence. For example...
Why was the road crossed by the chicken...
In this example the road is used as the subject, not as the direct object.
Why did the chicken cross the road...
Now chicken is in the proper place as the subject of the sentence, cross is the active verb and road is following the verb, as it should be, as the direct object.
This example has helped me most of the time, but not all of the time. When I see an 'is' or 'are' in my work, I stop and ask if my subject is in the proper place. If not, switching it around, is an easy fix.
But let's go back to my original example...
We are driving to my sister's.
In this sentence, We is the subject and are driving is the verb (with helping verb in present participle). How else can you say a sentence like this without the passive voice? First if you delete the helping verb 'are' you can then say...
We drove to my sister's.
We drive to my sister's.
It is just more direct, I guess...
When I look at my writing, it is this type of passive voice I am riddled with. I get completely stuck sometimes and can't seem to figure out how to turn it around.
What about you? How do you avoid the passive voice? Do you have any tricks of the trade? Have you been able, at this point, to avoid the passive voice in an almost unaware state? Or do you still struggle to catch yourself in the act???
Here are other writing no-nos
- The Passive Voice
- ING endings
- Adverbs in general. (The thought is, if your verb needs to be modified than you chose a weak verb)
- (which brings me to...) Weak Verbs
- Only Use Said (I've also heard you are only supposed to say "said." for example, Joe said. Not Joe exploded... Joe whispered... Joe exclaimed... This one I am not ready to give up. My general rule is, most of the time I say "said" but when it is called for, I used a more descriptive tag. My daughter's teacher last year gave out an award for the student who had the most synonyms for said (my daughter won BTW) and they were not allowed to use the word "said" in their creative writing at all. What is going on? Everything we are taught in school is thrown out the window when you become a writer!?)
What do you think about all these rules?
I don't think Shakespeare, Papa Hemingway, or any of the other great classic writers worried about such things. When did words and parts of speech become taboo?