Self-Editing: F**K Verbs

I could tell you all about how to write your stories to make them more dynamic, more active, and have more verve. But I really couldn’t do any better than to share this self-editing tip from David Plotz, the editor at “Slate.”

When I got my first journalism job at the Washington City Paper in 1993… I turned in a long feature about a neighborhood fight over a power plant to the editor, Jack Shafer. Jack looked at the story, then ran a global search-and-replace on the document, swapping out every single “is” and “are” with the word “fuck.” He told me: Don’t come back until you have replaced every fuck with an active verb. That was great advice for a young writer and reporter, and it made for one aggro story. (Read the full article here.)

So there you have it. Take your current WIP, seek out your “is’s” and “are’s,” and nuke ’em by replacing them with an active verb of your choice. Depending on your inner editor’s tastes, results may vary.

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All content copyright unless otherwise specified © 2013 by Tammy Salyer, writer. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to use short quotes provided proper attribution is given.