Active and Concrete Writing

It’s important to keep writing as active as possible. This does not mean that passive voice doesn’t have its place. However, if a piece of prose is passive from beginning to end, the reader will probably be snoozing before they’re done reading. Check out the following sentences. By eliminating the passive verb, the sentence is stronger.

She went dancing every night.

She danced every night.

This is a simple example of the concept, but if you review your writing, you’ll find plenty of examples of these types of sentences. How can you make the second sentence stronger? Ask questions. What kind of dancing? Is she dancing to put food on the table? Or does she hang out at a lonely heart’s bar? Or does she do it at the YMCA in an attempt to lose weight? Look at all the options available and determine which makes the most sense for what you’re trying to say and then make your sentence more concrete.

She danced every night at the YMCA determined to take off those extra 30 pounds.

Why is she trying to lose weight? An opportunity to add more concrete details.

She danced every night at the YMCA determined to take off those extra 30 pounds before her 20th high school reunion.

We have taken a sentence that was weak in construction and built a carefully constructed concrete sentence. As you edit your papers, be aware of the construction of your sentences. Passive construction in a first draft is fine but upon revision seek to strengthen your prose.



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