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  • Writer's pictureNikki Lee Taylor

Get active with sentence structure

If you want to become a successful writer it is important to always use correct sentence structure. Here's how to write grammatically correct sentences that will hook your readers and keep them wanting more.

In fiction, just like at the gym, it is important we remain active - with our sentences at least!

So what is an 'active' sentence?

An active sentence uses the SVO structure of Subject - Verb - Object - in that order.

The woman (subject) sipped (verb) the wine (object). Well kinda...

A good way to figure out whether your sentence is active is by checking whether your subject (the woman) is the one performing the action/verb (sipping).

Active sentences are a clear and concise way of writing that is easy for readers to follow and keeps your story fluid and moving forward.

A downfall of many beginner writers is to use passive sentence structures.

A passive sentence looks like this:

The wine (object) was sipped (verb) by Anita (subject).

As you can see this sentence does not follow the SVO format. It goes object, verb, subject (OVS) and as a result - is passive.

There are two simple ways to spot a passive sentence in your work:

  1. The words 'by', 'was' and 'were' will often be present

  2. The subject will be at the end of the sentence instead of at the start

Need some more examples? Here you go...



Chrissy Teigen (subject) ate (verb) the cupcake (object) on camera

This sentence uses the SVO format.


The cupcake (object) was eaten (verb) by Chrissy (subject)

This sentence has the subject last and does not follow the SVO format. Also notice it includes the word were.


Harley Quinn (subject) read (verb) the book (object) and sipped (verb) the tea (object)


The book was read and the tea was sipped by Harley Quinn

There is an exception to this and that is when your characters are thinking or you are writing dialogue. Thoughts and speech of characters can be fragmented or written outside the basic rules of sentence structure because they need to sound genuine and real people don't always speak in a grammatically correct fashion.

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