When writing or reading do you notice the word “was” being used a lot? I’ve been recently informed by an editor that it slows writing down because it can make a scene less immediate. Also “was” can make a sentence boring.
Here are some examples:
“A table was in the room” does not sound as good as, and get the reader as involved as, “He peered into the room where an oak table and old fashioned telephone…”
(I guess it’s in the same vein as using “quickly” and “easily” and other shortcut words.)
Here’s a sentence which just sounds better when you remove “was”:
“He juggled the box he was carrying”
becomes “He juggled the box he carried”
The picture we get is more immediate.
Sometimes “was” can make the sentence sound like it happened earlier rather than right now.
“I was walking down the street”
Even though this is happening now, it doesn’t make it very apparent.
“I was over there” That is a correct use of “was” because it did actually happen in the past.
“Evening was approaching” can become:
or “Evening settled and the streets lights flickered to life” if you want the flowery kind of descriptive sentence.
Don’t stress too much if every sentence you write has the word “was” in it, most of the well know authors still use “was” like they’re on a mission, just try and reduce “was” where you can, but only if you think the sentence will benefit from the change. Sometimes it means a big restructure of your work, but in the end it will be worth the time.
“He looked to be in his fifties and was sporting a goatee that was graying around the chin” becomes:
“He looked to be in his fifties and sported a goatee graying around the chin”
“Jo rolled her eyes and turned away to harangue a chef who was struggling with pot of steaming soup.” Delete “who was”