Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Expunge All Forms of 'To Be'

I finished reading another semi-boring, uber-predictable teen novel today (part of my job) and as I closed the book slightly disappointed it got me thinking... What did I dislike so much?

The story line followed the Twilight pattern with mythical characters (faeries in this case). Yes bad guys and noble warriors filled the chapters. And let's not leave out the damsel in distress, boring teachers, stressful high school situation, model-like beauty, nerdy boys.... ok the story ran along the lines of every other young adult novel popular today.

But the book's subject monotony didn't ruin it for me. The extreme use of all forms of 'to be' put me over the edge.

I might have noticed this fact because I am eight chapters into editing my attempt at a novel and am subsequently trying to expunge every is, was, were, am from the sentences. But for some reason with this book I noticed it more. Out of curiosity I pulled out the last three young adult novels I read to review. Sure enough nearly all of them relied heavily on all forms of 'to be'.

Maybe authors need to crank books out too quickly these days. Maybe they should tweet more. Maybe editors could demand more creativity. Maybe I just need to get used to it - but in my opinion a sentence sounds so much better with a descriptive verb; a task that's also more difficult to accomplish.

The same applies to writers of all sorts. Instead of liberally using 'to be' verbs, try to spice the story and your writing up.


  1. I love this idea. Interestingly, in American Sign Language, there are no signs for "to be" verbs. Everything is visually descriptive and it's fascinating to talk to some of my Deaf friends online because they eschew the "to be" verbs even in writing. Of course, now I dread going back over my writing to remove all forms of "to be" because I already know that I rely on them too much.

  2. Jared - I had no idea about this in the sign language - SOOO interesting.