Eliminating Was

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Writing for the now, writing with action and verve, can be a challenge. Lets’s try that again: it can be tough to write good action sentences. Passive sentences certainly have their place in expressive, contemplative and descriptive passages. But they can spell death for an action scene.

Lothar was waiting behind the door, anxiously clutching the hatchet. VS Lothar anxiously clutched the hatchet on the other side of the door.

The second sentence implies action and shifts the focus to Lothar, where the first sentence describes what was on the other side of the door.

I issued this challenge to myself in the reworking of Phineas : eliminate the word “was”.

To accomplish it, I used Word’s Find feature to examine each instance of the word and come up with a better alternative. The word absolutely fits in some circumstances, such as in dialog. But, in most cases, a better word choice, and perhaps a more expressive sentence structure, can usually be found. I mean, you can usually find a better word choice!

Was is a pervasive word that can drop an anchor on your action passage.

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Author: John Reinhart

Technical writer John Reinhart says his mission is to get his readers excited about the possibilities of and wonders of planetary science. A happily married father of three from Ventura, CA, he holds a bachelor’s degree in Communications from Cal State Chico, has taught college courses, and is working on his second novel.

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