Posted by: Kathy Temean | July 17, 2009

Revision – Get Rid of Passive Sentences, etc.

1.  When doing a revision look for passive writing and wipe them out. So look for verbs preceded by “would” (would go, would sleep, would eat) and replace them with the past tense (went, slept, ate).

Do you have any actions that seem to happen out of thin air. “The door was opened” is passive, because the sentence lacks a “doer”. Always remember that your reader needs to visualize what’s happening in the story.  So, “The wind blew the door open” is better, because the action can be attributed to something, and it puts the most important element (the strong wind) at the beginning of the sentence. Just rearranging the words and saying, “The door blew open from the wind,” puts emphasis on the door, making that the subject of the sentence.

2.  Be precise and use exact nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs – this is one of the best ways to make your writing come alive for the reader.  Better to use just one well-chosen word than three vague ones.

Have you drawn a vivid picture for your reader?  Adjectives like big, little, cold, hot, beautiful, scary and silly, plus adverbs such as quickly, slowly, loudly, and softly and general verbs like walk, went, stayed and ate don’t get that job done. Of course, sometimes these words are appropriate, but try as a rule choosing words that describe specifically what you want to describe. Words that sound and look interesting are always a plus. Tremendous, tiny, frigid, scorching, plodded, sauntered and gulped are more fun to read, and they each lend an emotional overtone to the sentence (if your character gulps his food, you don’t have to tell the reader he’s in a hurry).


  1. This is so true – when I think of some of the authors I enjoy most, one of the biggest attractions is their superb use of language which both engages and paints a rich picture for me.



  2. Great advice, Kathy!

    In your next blog posting can you speak about “finish or start over my WIP, that IS the Qustion…” This is my constant ying and yang!


  3. I saw this and immediately to my head came ‘Sheri, no!’ Don’t start over – keep writing! (Assuming you mean OW, of course.)
    But then, I’m not in your shoes. I would hate to see you start over because to me, it’s coming along so well!
    So … just more ying .. or yang .. for you to add in the mix.


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