The University of Chicago Press

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Key principles in this chapter:

• Favour strong, specific, robust action verbs (scrutinise, dissect, recount, capture) over weak, vague, lazy ones (have, do, show).

• Limit your use of be-verbs (is, am, are, was, were, be, being, been)
Active verbs merit effort and attention for at least three reasons. First, they supply a sense of agency and urgency to your writing by telling you who did what to whom. A scientist’s passive locution, ‘The research was performed’, lacks the honesty and directness of ‘We performed the research’.
Second, active verbs add force and complexity to otherwise static sentences. When you write, ‘The pandemic swept through South America’, you implicitly liken the pandemic’s effect to that of a fire sweeping through a forest or a broom sweeping clear a cluttered floor. ‘The pandemic was very serious’ simply doesn’t spark our imagination in the same way.
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