A photograph of several people sitting on a stage reading scripts with somber looks on their faces

Source: TEDxBeirut 2nd Audition @Tournesol Theatre, TEDxBeirut, Flickr

A country singer sits with his head bowed and hands clasped, while a petite soprano sings scales to warm up her voice, and a tuxedoed man concentrates on breathing deeply. These tense vocalists are waiting to audition for NBC’s reality show The Voice. The mood backstage is somber.

This is not a lesson about improving the timbre of your vocal chords, relieving tension, or lightening the mood when everyone’s on edge. While voice, tense, and mood have familiar general meanings, they mean something different in grammar. Each is a feature of verbs. By focusing on these three features, you will expand your range of editing skills and improve your writing.

You might also reap indirect benefits. As you learn to replace passive verbs with active ones, your writing voice will become more dynamic. As you learn to use verb tense consistently, your readers might be less tense because they will know if what you are writing about is from the past, present, or future. As you learn to use grammatically correct verb forms, your teacher’s mood might also improve.