On this blog every Tuesday and Friday I write about story techniques, structure, and/or publishing. Comments and questions are welcome. I also have a personal blog, Amy Deardon, on which I write about a variety of topics purely as they catch my fancy.

I've written one novel, A Lever Long Enough, that I'm honored to say has won two awards. In my life BC (before children) I was a scientist who did bench research.

My book, The Story Template: Conquer Writer's Block Using the Universal Structure of Story, is now available in both hard-copy and e-book formats. I also coach would-be novelists and screenwriters to develop their story. YOU CAN CONTACT ME at amydeardon at yahoo dot com.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Passive Voice

My son's tenth grade English teacher prohibits "to be" verbs in any esssays. While as a writer I feel this is a bit extreme (?did you catch that one?), eliminate these for strong writing.

The "to be" verbs indicate passive voice. As a scientist I got into the habit of using passive voice, the universal voice of dry scientific articles, and I found it a hard habit to break when I started fiction writing. I have trouble *hearing* passive voice in my writing even now, although going through two books-worth of editing and feedback from copy editors improved my ear. I still find it easiest to do a computer word search for these words to remove them.

Changing the sentence around takes a little practice. Let's take a few examples:

X will be different from Y because... --> X differs from Y because...

This is interesting because... --> This interests me because...

The first step is for the person to find... --> The person must first identify...

This study is an analysis of... --> This study analyzes...

And that perennial clunker:

A good time was had by all. --> Everyone enjoyed a good time.


A computer or friend reading back your words in a monotone voice is one good way to *hear* passive voice. I use my Kindle for this: I put the file on the device, then turn on the audible function and correct my words on the computer at the same time. It works great.

Otherwise, just pay attention. For what it's worth, while writing this short blog entry I found multiple instances of passive voice that I reworded to avoid embarrassment. Tough stuff! Just pay attention and do it.


List of "To Be" Verbs:


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