Grammar for Fiction Writers: Busy Writer's Guides Book (2014)

Part III. Grammar Rules Every Writer Needs to Know and Follow

Chapter 18. Take It to the Page: Part Three

As you become more comfortable with grammar, you’ll find that you make fewer and fewer mistakes in your writing. However, even once we’re comfortable with the rules and guidelines of English grammar, it can help to have quick ways to check some of the most common glips.

Step 1

Back in the Take It to the Page section for Part Two, you did a search for helping and state-of-being verbs. One of those verbs was was. We’re going to search for it again. Because you removed many of the instances of it before, this search should be quicker. This time, when you see a was, check if the sentence is passive. Would it be stronger if you rewrote it as an active sentence? If so, rewrite it. If not, make sure you wrote it as a passive sentence either purposefully or because there was no better way to write it. (Reminder: If you’re writing in present tense, you’ll need to search for is instead.)

Step 2

Use the Find feature to search for had and would. If you want, you can use the Find and Replace feature to replace had with HAD and would with WOULD to help them stand out better. If you see these words too many times, it can indicate you’re using the perfect tense and/or the perfect progressive tense too often.

Check to see if the HAD sentences could be changed to simple past tense.

Check to see if you can remove some of the repetitive WOULD sentences by rewriting them.

Step 3

Use the Find feature to search for whom. Should it be who? (We’re not going to run a search for whoWho is now commonly accepted as a stand-in for whom. We are searching for whom, however, because, if you’re going to use it, you need to be sure you use it correctly.)

Step 4

Run a search for the following words.

That – Should it be who or which instead? Is this a leftover weasel word that you should cut?

Who – Should it be that or which instead?

Which – Should it be who or that instead?