Active verbs show an action such as ran, careened, smiled, sang, etc. Active verbs are clear about the actions of the subject and are less ambiguous. The most commonly used verbs do not show any action, so these verbs are considered passive. These passive verbs include is, are, was, were, be, been, being, and am . Try to eliminate passive verbs from your writing.
Passive Example: Active Example: Your plants will be arriving next week. Your plants will arrive next week. The passive example sounds tired while the active example sounds confident, direct, and exact.
Passive Example: We are in the process of making a really good presentation later this week. Active Example: We will make a good presentation later this week. Once again, the active example sounds more direct.
No one can “is” or “was” and that is what makes these verbs passive. Strive for action verbs.
The English language includes a lot of choices.
Section Three: Revising For an Improved Message
This section deals with tips for revising your writing to improve your message. Most of these tips will refer back to material already covered in this handbook.
· Use strong verbs, see “action verbs.”
· Tighten your writing and be concise, see “familiar words.”
· Vary sentence length and structure.
· Use parallel structure, see “parallel structure.”
· Put your readers in your sentences. This refers to “you-attitude” from the textbook.
Begin most paragraphs with topic sentences.
· The topic sentence states the main idea and provides a “scaffold” to structure your document. Open with the main point and then follow it with details.
· Example: The company and the IRS disagree about whether the company is liable for back taxes. In fiscal 2002, the company filed claims for starts with a refund of federal income taxes of $3,199,000 and interest of $969,000 paid as a result of an examination of the company’s federal income tax returns by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for the years 1999 through 2001. It is uncertain what amount, if any, may ultimately be recovered.
Use transitions to link ideas and to move from one paragraph to the next.
· Transition words and sentences signal the connections between ideas to the reader.
· Example: and, but, however, for example, after, moreover.
Improve Your Message through Revision
There are several techniques that will help you improve your sentences, paragraphs, and entire document.
· Try the 3×3 writing process.
· First, brainstorm for 20 minutes then leave it and come back to your writing in an hour or more.
· Second, begin to group ideas together for a rough draft and outline.
· Third, revise your drafts several times, especially after a peer reviews it.
· Read the draft aloud to someone. As you read aloud, have your peer editor take notes about what works, what doesn’t and what is confusing to them. After reading, have your peer partner hand you his notes so that you may revise using them.
· Ask someone else to read it to you. By doing this, you are able to catch some of your own errors.
· Use the ruler method. Place the ruler below the first line so that you are focused on a single line instead of the entire document. Move the ruler down one line at a time to help you focus.
· Use the backwards approach. Read from the end of your document and move backwards. Start with the last sentence, read it, correct it and then move up to the sentence above it. The last line you will read will be the first line.