How can you revise your sentences to eliminate unnecessary “to be” verbs?

  • Circle or highlight forms of “to be” verbs in your sentences and paragraphs: is, am, was, were, being, been
  • Look for the “doer” in your sentences: Who is performing the action?
  • Make the “doer” the subject of your sentence.
  • Substitute more expressive words for the “to be” verbs to enliven the action performed by the “doer.”
  • Avoid beginning sentences with It is, There is, or There are.
  • Avoid the use of present progressive verb forms such as is happening, is going, and is deciding.

Let’s look at some examples:

Weak: He is a student who is intelligent and confident. He is always completing assignments on time.

Stronger: The intelligent, confident student always completes assignments on time.


Weak: It was difficult to get out of bed at 6:00 a.m. each morning.

Stronger: The student faced the difficulty and got out of bed at 6:00 a.m. each morning.


Weak: Bill is going to start bringing all of his books to the group session for studying.

Stronger: Bill decided to bring all of his books to the group study session.

For additional resources on avoiding unneccessary “to be” verbs, see also: