5 Minutes a Week to Better Writing {Friday Series}: Bidding "to-be" Verbs Farewell

What are "to-be" verbs?

“To-be” verbs: is, am, are, was, were, be, being, been; state of being verbs

The Challenge

Eliminate as many "to-be" verbs from your writing as possible.

What's the deal with "to-be" verbs?

  • Vague implications.  Example:  Be quiet.  Better:  Do not raise your voice indoors. 
  • Absolute.  Example:  Girls with blonde hair are dizzy.  Explanation:  Blonde hair and gender are not requirements for dizziness. 
  • Dull, wordy, not expressive, and leads to passive sentences.  Example:  He was feeling sad by the news of his grandmother's death.  Better:  Saddened by the news of his grandmother's untimely death, he wept.
  • Conveys permanence.  Example:  I am thirsty.  Explanation:  Unless you find yourself in a constant state of thirst, the sentence is inaccurate. 


Combating the "to-be" verbs

Circle or highlight all "to-be" verbs in your writing.

Prevent passive sentences by making the "doer" the subject.

Find a stronger verb to replace the "to-verb" verb.  Example:  She was pretty in her pink dress.  Better:  She looked pretty in her pink dress.  Try using other linking verbs such:  look, seem, feel, became, remain, smell, taste....

Do not begin a sentence with "there is", "there are", "this is", or "it is".

Combine sentences to create one concise thought.  Example:  She was in love.  She felt scared that he was not in love her with her.  Better:  Frightened he did not love her, she concealed her love. 

Let me know how you did with this challenge!

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Richele McFarlin, author of Under the Golden Apple Tree, and founder of Moms of Dyslexics, enjoys a good cup of coffee as she demonstrates her ability to wrestle HTML to the ground and write from the heart.
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