Never use the passive where you can use the active.This may be the single most valuable tip for improving your writing that you’ll every hear. A search for “passive tense” turns up more than a million links to advice urging you to reword your work and frame it in active tense.>
I’m not going to dwell on that advice. I’m going to share the second most important tip:
An example of dead would follows:Get rid of the dead would.
In the summer my friend Annie and I would often pack a picnic lunch. Then we’d head for the beach where we would set up our umbrellas. We would rub Coppertone suntan lotion on each others backs and settled onto our towels. Sooner or later the guys would show up and ....Compare that passage with this revised version that does nothing more than eliminate would:
In the summer my friend Annie and I often packed a picnic lunch. Then we headed for the beach where we set up our umbrellas. We rubbed Coppertone suntan lotion on each others backs and settled onto our towels. Sooner or later the guys showed up and ...Doesn’t that just brighten the passage right away?
The word would does have a legitimate place in the language. For example, it’s appropriate to say, “I would do it if he gave me $50,” or “I would do it for $50.” In both these cases, would is properly used in its conditional sense, not as a verb modifier.
Most of the time would serves only to muddy the voice of your writing. Read through your stories and scrub it clean of any would not directly paired with a condition.
Write now: read through several old stories to see if they have a “woulden” frame and edit as needed.