A free, comprehensive, peer-reviewed, award-winning Open Text for students and faculty in college-level courses that require writing and research.

Joe Moxley, Founder, WritingCommons.org

Joe Moxley


Dear Colleagues and Students,

At Writing Commons, we are happy with the overall success of our project. Since 2011, when we launched at WritingCommons.org, we have hosted 6,315,882 users who have reviewed over 11 million pages. We are thrilled that students and faculty find our site to be helpful. Our ongoing mission is to be the best writing textbook possible. We also happen to be free. While we cannot perhaps claim yet that we are the best possible textbook for technical writing or creative writing courses, we are working on that.

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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:



Cassandra Branham, Editor-in-Chief WritingCommons.org

Cassandra Branham


Dear Colleagues and Students,

Welcome to Writing Commons, an open-education resource for instructors and students of writing across the disciplines. Our mission is to provide a high-quality, cost free resource to support students in the development of writing, research, and critical thinking practices.

This summer, we have been working on a site redesign in an effort to increase the usability of our site for both instructors and students. Our most significant change has been the inclusion of additional categories and subcategories to create a more intuitive hierarchy within the site.

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