Test Yourself: Changing Passives to Active Verbs

I'm copyediting a book this week, so I have immersed myself in rules and rule-breaking for nonfiction writing. The project is a church history. To work quickly, I have been using my grammar and spelling checker to make obvious errors and inconsistencies pop. One that keeps popping is passive verbs. 

Below are 10 examples of passive verbs I chose to change in the manuscript. As a copyeditor, you may not agree with my choices. But see how well you do in changing the bolded passive verb to active. 

 

If you need help understanding passive and active verbs before attempting the test, read this blog post: Everything You Need to Know About Passive Verbs

 

1. Many of the current members whose stories are presented here responded to the question “What brought you to Seattle First Baptist?”

2. Ward’s funeral service was held there when he died in September 1913.

3. In July a large advertisement appeared in The Seattle Daily Times announcing that “summer tourists” were invited to hear Dr. Bailey at Seattle First Baptist Church.

4. This obituary, cut from the newspaper, was found deep in the files of the Seattle First Baptist Heritage Room.

5. Nonetheless, at the end of his six-month appointment, Ohrum failed to obtain the three-fifths majority vote that he needed to be retained.

6. Romney’s theology, with its New Age overtones, also was criticized.

7. Later the Music Commission contracted with Mollicone to write another major work, “A Song for Our Planet,” which was also premiered by the Sanctuary Choir.

8. and 9. He was assisted in the late 1990s by Rev. Paul Raushenbush, who had been placed at First Baptist by Companis as Minister of Youth and Community Outreach.

10. The Hanford family history can be traced to the Rev. Thomas Hanford, the first minister of Norwalk, Connecticut. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Solutions: Changing Passive Verbs to Active Ones 

1. Many of the current members whose stories are presented here responded to the question “What brought you to Seattle First Baptist?”
Many of the current members whose stories appear here responded to the question “What brought you to Seattle First Baptist?”

2. Ward’s funeral service was held there when he died in September 1913.
Ward’s funeral service took place there when he died in September 1913.

3. In July a large advertisement appeared in The Seattle Daily Times announcing that “summer tourists” were invited to hear Dr. Bailey at Seattle First Baptist Church.
In July a large advertisement appeared in The Seattle Daily Times inviting “summer tourists” to hear Dr. Bailey at Seattle First Baptist Church.

4. This obituary, cut from the newspaper, was found deep in the files of the Seattle First Baptist Heritage Room.
This obituary, cut from the newspaper, surfaced from deep in the files of the Seattle First Baptist Heritage Room.

5. Nonetheless, at the end of his six-month appointment, Ohrum failed to obtain the three-fifths majority vote that he needed to be retained.
Nonetheless, at the end of his six-month appointment, Ohrum failed to obtain the three-fifths majority vote that he needed to remain.

6. Romney’s theology, with its New Age overtones, also was criticized.
Romney’s theology, with its New Age overtones, also received criticism.

7. Later the Music Commission contracted with Mollicone to write another major work, “A Song for Our Planet,” which was also premiered by the Sanctuary Choir.
Later the Music Commission contracted with Mollicone to write another major work, “A Song for Our Planet,” which the Sanctuary Choir also premiered.

8. and 9. He was assisted in the late 1990s by Rev. Paul Raushenbush, who had been placed at First Baptist by Companis as Minister of Youth and Community Outreach.
Rev. Paul Raushenbush assisted him in the late 1990s. Companis had placed Raushenbush at First Baptist as Minister of Youth and Community Outreach. 

10. The Hanford family history can be traced to the Rev. Thomas Hanford, the first minister of Norwalk, Connecticut. 
The Hanford family history traces to the Rev. Thomas Hanford, the first minister of Norwalk, Connecticut. 

 

How did you do? Do you agree with my edits? Do you have questions or suggestions? 

You may think that I have changed some passives unnecessarily–that they were fine as is. However, I made the changes that I could make because many passive verbs appeared that I felt I could not or should not change. Here are three I left alone:

The lighting system that spotlights Seattle First Baptist’s gothic spire, dedicated in 1948, was donated by church members Cora and Frank McConaghy in memory of their only daughter, Jean. . . . (In the flow of the paragraph, it did not work to start with "Cora and Frank McConaghy donated.") 

Seattle First Baptist Church acknowledges that the Seattle metropolitan area, including the land on which our buildings were built, rests on the site where the Duwamish and other indigenous tribes made their homes on the shores of Elliott Bay. (I considered changing were built to stand, but stand just before rests seemed awkward.)

First Methodist Episcopal, Seattle’s oldest church, was established in 1853. Trinity Episcopal was established in 1855. Our Lady of Good Help, Seattle’s first Catholic Church (disbanded in 1904), was established in 1869. (I could not think of a suitable, natural-sounding active verb to replace was established. Can you think of one?) 

 

If you edit articles, reports, proposals, or other business documents, you probably confront many passive verbs. (I thought about my verb choice in that sentence and avoided the passive "are confronted"!) Obviously, your content is different from this church-related book, but the need for strong active verbs is the same. Do you change passives as I did? Please share your thoughts. 

 

If you need more help with passive verbs, check out these other posts I wrote:

How Fast Can You Change Passive Verbs? 

Procedures: No Place for Passive Verbs

A Tip on Passive Verbs

Finding and Fixing Passive Verbs: Test Yourself

 

Lynn
Syntax Training

1 COMMENT

  1. I liked your changes! They made it sound much better. I had trouble coming up with good alternatives. As for the “was established” phrase, could you use “began”?

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