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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.

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: