My main pet peeve when editing involves the overuse of passive voice. I don’t mean past tense, where you’re describing things that happened before. But passive voice, which uses far too many “to be” verbs and far too few active verbs.
Passive verbs = is leaping, are creating, have experienced, was learning, were thinking, have been choosing.
Active verbs = leaps, create, experienced, learned, thought, chose.
Your goal? Communicate your message in the most compelling, concise manner to intrigue customers and get them talking, right? Here’s how…
Your message jumps off the page when you use active voice. Plus, you shorten the length of your writing by one-third. (This most valuable tip takes into consideration the on-screen scanning that people – myself included – use as an excuse for reading these days.)
Active voice takes practice, but simply watch for “to be” verbs followed by words ending in “-ed” or “-ing” and replace them with active verbs. Example:
Passive: The voice was mesmerizing to the student.
Active: The voice mesmerized the student.
Also, try to start your sentences with the subject and use an active verb to describe what the subject does. Example:
Passive: The young girl was overwhelmed by the depths of the woman’s presence.
Active: The woman’s deep presence overwhelmed the young girl.
Employ these two tips alone and just watch your writing become much more effective!
Tell me about your main editing pet peeve.
It drives me NUTS when people switch person – third person, to first person…to another person! (This same pet peeve applies to tense….some people just can’t keep it together!) hahaha
Can’t think of a peeve, but love the humorous demonstration of the tip!
One of my pet peeves – and this really makes me crazy – is when someone uses literally to emphasize something that is not (almost certainly) literal.
Thank you, Joanne. I hope to use a fun photo caption to demonstrate all my writing tips. Wish me luck!
Christy, I LITERALLY know what you mean. (Sorry, just tweaking your peeve.) Actually, I do know what you mean and I sympathize thoroughly. 😀
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