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Turn PASSIVE VERBS into ACTIVE VERBS with StyleWriter

Changing passive verbs into active verbs is probably the best-kept secret of professional writers and editors. If you use active verbs whenever possible in your writing, you'll change your style from dull, impersonal and long-winded to vigorous, interesting and readable.

When StyleWriter highlights passive verbs in your writing, it advises you to turn them into active verbs. This tutorial teaches you two ways to do this and also explains when you can use passive verbs.

What Are Passive Verbs?

Passive verbs consist of the verb to be combining with the past participle of another verb. 

Each passive verb starts with one form of the verb to be, such as:

is, are, was, were, be, been, being.

Followed by the past participle of another verb, either as:

· a regular verb ending in ...ed such as believed, calculated or passed, or

· an irregular verb such as bought, made, understood

Regular Passive Verbs Irregular Passive Verbs
are believed are bought
be recommended be taken
is subsequently stated been fully understood
been formally passed being taught

Active verbs are essential to good writing. Replacing passive verbs with active verbs makes your writing lively, direct, concise and personal.

To turn passive verbs into active verbs, either:

Put "Who did it?" first


It was agreed by the committee...


Who agreed?  The committee did. 
Put this information first.


The committee agreed...

Cross out as much of the passive verb as you can.


The savings could be used to pay for a new photocopier.


The savings could be used to pay for a new photocopier.


The savings could pay for a new photocopier.

An average of only one or two passive verbs in every ten sentences is a sign of a competent and professional writer.  Replacing passive verbs with active verbs means your:

· style becomes more personal and less official 
· style is simpler and less awkward 
· readers get more information 
· meaning becomes clearer and more precise 
· sentences are shorter and more effective.

StyleWriter's Passive Index

The Passive Index shows whether you have used too many passive verbs and helps you decide how many you need to change into active verbs.  Too many passive verbs make writing tedious and difficult to read.

StyleWriter counts the number of passive verbs, divides them by the number of sentences and multiplies the result by 100 to give a Passive Index score.

 Passive Index

Number of Passive Verbs

 X 100 

Number of Sentences

StyleWriter's Passive Index can measure how passive your writing is, whatever its length.  You should aim to keep the Passive Index as low as possible.

If you have too many passive verbs, change as many passive verbs as you can into active verbs.  If you can keep your Passive Index below 20, you're using a good, active writing style.

StyleWriter's Passive Index
Click image to enlarge!

By default, StyleWriter has the "Passive Verbs" category selected to check your document for all passive verbs. In this screenshot, the user can activate and deactivate the "Passive Verbs" category with a click of the button.

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