Writing an Active Sentence


Writing an Active Sentence

 Human hand writing in notebook

We spend a great deal of time focusing on our ancestors and the events in their life to create our family history stories. We use scene and summary and description to help us create a vivid and engaging vision for our reader.

However, sometimes we need not look much further than a few simple adjustments to our sentences to help us create active sentences.

In nonfiction writing if you want your reader to be drawn into the scene and experience the event rather than be told the event then using active sentence structures that engage and include an effective blend of detail and description can be a home run.


Become Aware of Your Sentence Starters

Look at your sentences do they begin with any of the following

It is It had
It was It would
There is

There was

There had been There would
These Those


Take a look at the example below.

It was a hot July day.


What is “it” referring to?

The first thing the reader has to do is figure out is what “it” means.

The reader is in her analytical brain, then, not in her imagination.

Also, nobody – no ancestor – is experiencing this state of the weather.

Instead, the reader has to think intellectually about what “it” refers to and try to assign some level of meaning to it.


Let’s try this instead.

The heat from the July sun melted her makeup as she made her way across the dusty field.

The reader now feels with the character. The reader knows how hot it is and can feel it through the action.


Be aware of your verb tense

When you use passive voice in your sentence construction, you slow the reader’s journey through your prose. Eliminate the passive, and your writing becomes crisper and more vibrant. Your images surge to the forefront. You’ll gain a lot more yardage from every sentence.


Passive Voice

She was cooking their dinner.


She cooked their dinner.

More ideal

Steam escaped from the charred pot as she stirred the goulash with her favourite wooden spoon.

We’ve used images, action and idea to create a much more active sentence.

The third sentence is much more visual and sensory than the last one.  More words are used,  but none are passive, and there’s no boring telling. You can also most see her standing over the pot on the stove.

With a few simple changes, you can transform your sentences. Make the subject a concrete noun. Clean up your sentences so it clearly expresses what you mean. Create a particular image or images for the reader to absorb. So without too much work you can go through your scenes and turn your ordinary mundane telling sentences into active showing sentences.