by Barbara McNichol
If you don’t want your editor spending copious amounts of time changing weak verbs into emotional or visual ones, what can you do?
First, watch out for “is” words and their various cousins. Stay alert to phrases like “is happening” or “was being good”; change them to “happens” or “behaved.” Search out every weak “is” form in your manuscript and find a strong alternative.
Also, don’t overuse the words “start to” and “begin.” What can you do differently? “Start to rub your hands together” becomes “rub your hands together”; “allow your energy fields to begin merging” becomes “allow your energy fields to merge.” Are you guilty of overusing these two weak words?
In fact, I’d put the word “just” in the same “weak” category. I love what one of my subscribers wrote: “I don’t have a Begin or Start habit. I do, though, have a Just habit. I just can’t kick it. It just seems appropriate when you just do something . . . like I just read your newsletter. Without the just, I could have read it anytime.”
Add to that a few lazy linking phrases such as “there are” and “there will be.” Rewrite them! “There will be many representatives elected” becomes “voters will elect many representatives.” Better yet, instead of many, use a specific number.
Why do I call these phrases lazy? Because they often lead into long passive sentences that slow readers down. When your readers have to swim upstream to follow what you write, they tend to give up. Better to ease them along with crisp, sharp prose—based on active verbs!
Yes, I do keep beating this drum about active verbs because I know they will make your writing better. Test the waters. You’ll see how they improve the flow, enhance the clarity, and add muscle to the meaning.
And, of course, making this one important shift will reduce the time (and fee) for editing!