How to Kill the Passive

  1. Let your software help identify passive voice and other writing problems. Read about how to get the most from your word processor.
  2. Do a global search for the words was, were [passive past tense] and is, are [passive present tense]. These words often indicate the passive voice.
  3. Cross out the passive offender [was, were, is, are].
  4. Add -ed to the verb that follows was, were,is, are.
  5. If that changed verb does not make grammatical sense, you have an irregular verb, so change it to the simple past tense.
  6. If you have no verb after the offending passive, then think hard and identify a strong, active-voice verb.
  7. Rewrite the sentence around the new active-voice verb. Build sentences around verbs-- that's what history needs!
  8. Do not rewrite your essay in the present tense; we write history in the past. Leave the dead in peace; don't try to resurrect them.
  • In your revision you will probably move the subject from the end of the sentence to the beginning where it belongs. You may have indirect and direct objects that show who received the action completed by the subject. Suggestion: Don't change how you draft your essays-- you may create a writer's block. Instead write as you always have but learn to REVISE away passives and other elements of poor writing.
  • How can you train yourself to "think" active/action verbs? Search the Web for "active verb list" "resume verbs" or "action verb list," and you'll find lists of strong, active-voice verbs. Also right click on words to bring up your word processing thesaurus.