Using active verbs

Using active verbs is essential if you want to write with a direct authoritative style. Instead of using the impersonal passive verbs and third person viewpoint, you should write with strong, active verbs.

Almost every authority on writing encourages you to use active verbs. Here's some typical advice to authors publishing research papers for The American Society for Testing Materials.

"As most everyone has agreed for some time now, use the third person in a paper not only adds nothing to scientific objectivity, it renders the paper gutless and lifeless ... Scientists of the 19th century such as Darwin and Huxley wrote sensibly and clearly in the first person and turned out some very respectable prose. Let us begin anew ... use active verbs."

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Look at these examples:

Passive:
An improvement in quality has been made leading to the decision being taken to raise the standard test so a higher mark means the same success rate being accepted. (29 words)
Active:
As quality improved, the standard test rose, leading to a higher standard mark to gain the same acceptable success rate. (20 words)

Notice the passive example sounds academic but takes extra nine words to say the same information. It is no more objective than the alternative with active verbs. Although we naturally speak with active verbs, even when discussing academic subjects, the traditional academic writing style litters writing with unnecessary passive verbs. Any sentence can be either active or passive. It is your choice as the author.

Whatever the subject of the essay, you can write with active verbs to make your writing style more direct, clear and forceful. If there's one piece of advice on writing style you should follow, it's to use active verbs throughout your essays.

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