Use active verbs.

Active verbs are not soccer players. Active verbs dribble the ball down the field, smack the dripping sweat away from his eyes, feel the rush of the approaching defender and sweep the ball backwards to his teammate.

Active verbs are not girls. Active verbs untwist the mascara brush, lean her stomach over the bathroom counter, close one eye and gently shake the brush in a horizontal fashion while moving towards the tips of her eyelashes.

Active verbs make a noun do something, according to Feature Writing: The Pursuit of Excellence by Friedlander and Lee.

Passive verbs—am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been—take the place of an equals sign. Sam is a senior in college and is taking a journalism class. Sam = a senior in college = taking a journalism class.

Instead of using a mathematical way to write, writers can make an appositive describe the noun. The robotic equation turns into “Sam, a senior in college, types furiously to meet her story deadline.” Avoiding passive verbs forces the writer to add description so that the reader can form a picture.

Using passive voice can sometimes emphasize a point in the story, however. Pulitzer Prize winner Jon Franklin uses this technique in Mrs. Kelly’s Monster to address the time element.

“It is 9:20,” he writes. The time keeps the reader aware.

When tension fills the operating room, Franklin writes, “It is 1:06,” a more specific time. Here, using a simple passive verb proves effective. The most important part of that sentence involves the precision of the minute, not how the clock looks when it strikes the sixth tick mark.

Blogger Emilee Lindner wants her readers to form images when reading her stories. Her strong active verbs, she believes, keep readers coming back to her account Summer in the city.

The senior journalism/ mass communication major at St. Bonaventure University started this blog in December 2010 and had 79 views by New Year’s Day. In August 2011, she had over 480 clicks per month.

Lindner says, “I sashay, shuffle and stomp down the street instead of simply walking.”

Mrs. Kelly’s Monster

Lindner’s blog:


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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. I approve. 🙂

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