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LEGRWL Topic: The Vital Role of the Verb

Making it active

There are 2 special forms for verbs namely active voice and
passive voice.

The active voice is the "normal" voice. This is the voice that
we use most of the time. In the active voice, the subject and
verb relationship is straightforward i.e. the thing doing the
action is the subject of the sentence and the thing receiving the
action is the object.

On the other hand, in the passive voice, the thing receiving the
action is the subject of the sentence and the thing doing the
action is optionally included near the end of the sentence.

For example:
subject verb object
active Everybody passed the test.
passive The test was passed
by everybody.

In the active voice, the subject of the sentence performs the
action expressed in the verb while in the passive voice,
the subject receives the action of the verb. The object of the
active verb becomes the subject of the passive verb.

Because it is simple, direct, clear and easy to read, most
writers prefer to use the active voice whenever possible.
Sentences written in the active voice are also less wordy than
those in the passive voice and cutting unnecessary
words always improves a piece of writing. Writing in the
passive voice means constructing sentences where the subject
is passive acted upon, rather than agents of action. For
many forms of writing, this can create an undesired effect:
sentences often become confusing or simply dull.

For example, instead of Action on the bill is being considered
by the committee. which is in passive voice, use The
committee is considering action on the bill. This is more
concise and direct to the point. Passive form sometimes tend
to create awkward sentences.

The passive voice, however, must not be entirely discarded
and may be a better choice, however, when:
It is more important to draw our attention to the
person or thing acted upon
The doer of the action is unknown, unwanted, or
unneeded in the sentence
The writer wishes to use passive voice for sentence

Active Passive
The dispatcher is
notifying police that three prisoners
have escaped.
Police are being notified
that three prisoners
have escaped.
Surgeons successfully performed a
new experimental liver-transplant
operation yesterday.
A new experimental
operation was
performed successfully
"Authorities make rules to be
broken," he said defiantly.
"Rules are made to be
broken," he said
In each of these examples, the passive voice makes sense
because the agent is relatively unimportant compared to the
action itself and what is acted upon.

If you want to change a passive-voice sentence to active voice,
find the agent in a "by the..." phrase, or consider carefully who
or what is performing the action expressed in the verb. Make
that agent the subject of the sentence, and change the verb

1. Taking the verb out of verbosity

Verbosity is speech or writing, which is deemed to use an
excess of words or wordiness. Strunk and White, authors
of The Elements of Style, warn writers not to be verbose.
Vigorous writing must be concise. A sentence should contain
no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary
sentences, for the same reason the drawing should have no
unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.
Furthermore, verbosity may lead to unclear and inarticulate

An example of verbose sentence is:

The witness, who is a member the deceaseds family, left the
court room in a hasty manner in spite of the fact that the
hearing was in session.

It can be simply stated as, The witness, a member of the
deceaseds family, left hastily although the hearing was in

Some tips to avoid verbosity:

1. Using active voice. As mentioned earlier, avoid passive
sentence construction. An active voice is more concise than
the passive.

2. Smothering a verb. Rescue verbs that are smothered in
nouns or look for opportunities to reduce sentence length by
omitting a sentences verb and converting an adverb to a verb
to take its place.

Example: The function of this department is the collection of
accounts. >> This department collects accounts.

Students worked collaboratively on unfamiliar and open-ended
problems. >> Students collaborated on unfamiliar and open-
ended problems.

3. Delete unnecessary infinitive phrases.

Example: The duty of a clerk is to check all incoming mail to
record it. >> A clerk checks and record all incoming mail.

4. Interrogate every word in the sentence. Check every word to
make sure that it is providing something important and unique
to a sentence. Replace several vague words with more
powerful and specific words.

5. Combine sentences. To combine two sentences into one,
convert key information from either sentence into a
parenthetical and tack the other statement onto the end.

Example: John runs the art seminar, an after-school activity for
students struggling in school. He uses art to connect to
students. >> John, who runs the art seminar, an after-school
activity for students struggling in school, uses art to connect
with students.