Why eliminate unnecessary “to be” verbs?

When a writer consistently uses unnecessary “to be” verbs, the writing can sound dull and lifeless. Flat, wordy writing may cause the reader to lose interest. As a writer learns to substitute stronger, more expressive verbs for “to be” verbs, the enlivened writing is likely to hold the reader’s interest more effectively.

What is a vague pronoun reference?

A pronoun is a part of speech that can replace a noun; its antecedent is the person, place, or thing to which the pronoun refers. A vague pronoun reference might include words such as it, that, this, and which, and can leave the reader wondering what or to whom the pronoun refers. Writers who strive for clarity in their work should be certain that each pronoun has a specific antecedent.

Why is it important to avoid unnecessary shifts in verb tense?

The verb tense expresses a sense of time in a sentence, paragraph, paper, or longer work. Generally, the writer should establish the time perspective (past, present, or future) in the opening sentence and maintain that tense consistently throughout his or her work.

What is a sentence fragment?

A sentence fragment is a word, phrase, or dependent clause that is punctuated as a sentence, but the subject, verb, or both may be missing. Though sentence fragments may be used for effect in certain types of writing, fragments are generally not used in academic or professional writing.

What is a run-on sentence?

A run-on (or fused) sentence consists of two or more independent clauses that have been joined without appropriate punctuation or coordinating words. Dividing a run-on sentence into concise, meaningful units can help to clarify your message.

What is a modifier?

A modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that describes, strengthens, or clarifies another word (or group of words) in a sentence. When a modifier is placed in its proper position in a sentence, a sense of clarity is established for the reader.

What is a misplaced modifier?

A modifier may be considered misplaced when it is not in the correct position in the sentence in relation to the word (or words) being modified.

What is subject-verb agreement?

In a sentence, the form of the verb changes, or is conjugated, to reflect the relationship between the subject and the action being performed. To bring the subject and verb into agreement, they must correspond in number (singular or plural) and person (first, second, or third).

What is a pronoun-antecedent relationship?

A pronoun is a part of speech that can replace a noun; its antecedent is the person, place, or thing to which the pronoun refers. Unclear pronoun-antecedent relationships, or those without proper agreement, can leave the reader confused. Writers who strive for clarity in their work should be certain that each pronoun has a clear antecedent and that the pronoun and antecedent agree in person (first, second, or third), number, and gender.


How might pronoun-antecedent relationships be clarified?

  • Circle or highlight the pronouns in each paragraph.
  • Look for each pronoun’s antecedent—the person, place, or thing to which the pronoun refers.
  • Draw an arrow from the pronoun to its antecedent.
  • If the antecedent is missing, rewrite the sentence to include a clear antecedent for each pronoun.
  • If the antecedent is there, check for pronoun and antecedent agreement in person, number, and gender.

Let’s look at some examples:

Missing antecedents: He felt better about the revision process when he left his office. (Who left the office? Whose office is it?)

Clear antecedents: The student felt better about the revision process when he left Dr. Brown’s office.

 

Lack of agreement: The student put books in their backpack and left for our next class. (Student is singular, but the pronouns their and our are plural.)

Proper agreement: The student put books in his backpack and left for his next class.

 

Vague: Susan visited the animal shelter to see the stray cat before she ate. (Did the visit to the animal shelter occur before Susan ate or before the cat ate?)

Clarified: Before she ate, Susan went to the animal shelter to visit the stray cat.

What is a modifier?

A modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that describes, strengthens, or clarifies another word (or group of words) in a sentence. When a modifier is placed in its proper position in a sentence, a sense of clarity is established for the reader.

What is a comma splice?

A comma splice is a common sentence problem that occurs when two complete sentences (independent clauses) are incorrectly joined by a comma. This incorrect union of clauses creates a run-on sentence. The problem can be repaired when a different form of punctuation replaces the comma, a coordinating conjunction is inserted, or when the sentence is rewritten.