As I explained yesterday, I will now be covering two chapters from Everyday Editing by Jeff Anderson each weekend so that we finish book before Nanowrimo starts. Chapter Six, to be or not to be, in other words verb choice.
Verbs of being are: is, are, was, were, be, been, and am. You can avoid using a verb of being with the -ing form of a verb to strengthen your writing. Active voice creates cleaner, tighter writing. Verbs add action and movement to our writing. Often the main verb will pack more punch if it stands alone.
Examples from Anderson:
Writing is weakened by the passive voice.
vs. The passive voice weakens writing.
The first is passive, the second active.
Fred, Sam, and I stood in front of strange trees and giant ferns. A rocky cliff rose behind us. A volcano smoked ahead of us. – Jon Scieszka, Your Mother Was a Neanderthal
vs. Fred, Sam, and I were standing in front of strange trees and giant ferns. A rocky cliff was rising behind us. A volcano was smoking ahead of us. -Adjusted by Anderson to make a point.
Which one sounds better to you? I know which one I like.
On the other hand sometimes you need verbs of being.
Xavier is dying.
Changing it to Xavier dies or died, would very much change the meaning. Use the voice and the verb that give you the message you want to convey to the reader.