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

Welcome to Writing Commons,

Writing Commons, https://writingcommons.org, helps students improve their writing, critical thinking, and information literacy. Founded in 2008 by Joseph M. Moxley, Writing Commons is a viable alternative to expensive writing textbooks. Faculty may assign Writing Commons for their composition, business, technical, and creative writing courses. We are currently crowdsourcing submissions via an academic, peer-review process (see Contribute).

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:

 

 

How to Use Writing Commons

Welcome to Writing Commons, the open-education home for writers. Writing Commons helps students improve their writing, critical thinking, and information literacy. Founded in 2008 by Joseph M. Moxley, Writing Commons is a viable alternative to expensive writing textbooks. Faculty may assign Writing Commons for their composition, business, STEM/Technical Writing, and creative writing courses.

Writing Commons houses eleven main sections: The Writing Process | Style | Academic Writing | Rhetoric | Information Literacy | Evidence and Documentation | Research Methods and Methodologies | New Media Communication | Professional and Technical Communication | Creative Writing | Reviews

The two best ways to navigate through Writing Commons are using the top menu navigation, called Chapters, or the left-hand navigation menu system.

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