One of the first things a journalist learns is to use active rather than passive verbs. And there is good reason for those who want to engage and persuade a reader. The following excerpts are taken from the Franklin Covey Style Guide for Buisness and Technical Communication:
“Active sentences are usually shorter and more dynamic than passive sentences. They generally have more impact and seem more ‘natural’…Active writing is more forceful and more self-confident.
Passive writing….can seem weak-willed, indecisive, or evasive.”
The latter is certainly not what you wish to convey in a powerful grant proposal!
In general avoid using passive verbs. Replace them and other static or overused verbs with more dynamic verbs. Also avoid what the Covey Style Guide defines as “weak” verbs — common and sometimes necessary but not powerful when combined with a noun (particularly a bureaucratic noun!). The list below is Covey’s list of weak verbs and is followed by some examples of preferred sentence structures:
Sample Weak Verbs: is our was were can could has had have do did done make use come
It may seem impossible not to use those verbs but they are not always necessary. Replace them with stronger verbs as illustrated in these examples (note that in both cases the stronger sentence is shorter than the weaker one:
We have made vast improvements in our reaction mechanisms.
We have vastly improved our reaction mechanisms.
We will give special emphasis sot the evaluation of plating techniques for the deposition of amorphous or glassy metal coatings.
Before developing the catalyst we would assess the technical and economic advantages of the source materials.