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Friday, June 19, 2015

CTRL+F Is My Editing Friend: WAS

Last month I talked about usng CTRL plus the letter F to bring up the search box in order to help me identify all the times I use the word "that" in a sentence. I have found I can eliminate the word that most if not all of the time in a manuscript and end up with the same meaning. Doing so often results in a better crafted sentence.

Another word I now look for and attempt to change is the word was. Why? It is a passive verb. It is a wimpy verb. Sometimes, nothing but the word was will do. However, many times my sentences are enhanced and my storyline improved if I can eliminate the was and substitute an action verb.

Example:  Change "I was sad." to "I felt sad." Easy.

I recently read a novel series published about ten years ago by a well-known publishing house. The number of times the author used passive verbs including the word was rankled. I wanted to reach right through the page and line edit the book for him to say, "Hey! Look how much more effective this will read if you switch to these action verbs. I got past all the times I read was -- barely -- because the storyline engaged me.

Here I use was a lot:

I was late today getting this blog post online. I was at my ninety year-old friend's house helping her with a garage sale. She was thinking it was better for her to move closer to her family, so she was clearing out items she wasn't planning to take with her. She was happy with the success of her sale.

Here is my rewrite. Can you feel the excitement? I challenge you to do even better:

I posted this blog article late today. My ninety year-old friend asked me to help her with her garage sale this morning. She decided to move closer to her family and planned to clear out items she no longer needs and does not want to take with her. She felt elated over the success of her sale.

Robyn Echols writes using the pen name, Zina Abbott. Her novel, Family Secrets, has been published by Fire Star Press and is now available on Amazon HERE and on Barnes & Nobel for Nook HERE

Also available from Prairie Rose Publications:

Big Meadows Valentine, on Amazon Kindle HERE and on Nook HERE . The second novella in the Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 series, A Resurrected Heart, is available on Amazon Kindle HERE and on Nook HERE.

1 comment:

  1. Passive voice does sneak up on us and "was" is one of the sneakiest. Thanks for the reminder.