Monthly Online eZine  
News And Views For Working Writers

 INside Scoop
 IN Her Own Write
 Pen IN Hand
 Write On!
 Screen & Stage
 Top 10 Resources
 Book Reviews
 Items Of INterest
 Global Offerings
 INside Services
 Bill The Bard
 The Writer At Work
 Games & Puzzles
 Classic eTexts
 Free Software
 IN Banners
 Who's IN
 What's IN
 Editorial Calendar
 Join IN's Team
 Contacting IN

IN Front Cover


Learn To Be A Better Journalist

Buy Classic Literature Collections

Acclaimed Screenplay Writing Software

Books On How To Write Fiction

Become A Well Paid Travel Writer

Vote daily and raise our ranking!

Items Of INterest
January, 2008

Debra Weaver

Swat Those Be's
Deliver a strong message
By  Debra Weaver

Get in there and take out those verbs by bringing in a "swat those be's" attitude.
The little verb "to be" stands between many a message and its readers. "Be" and all its relatives – is, are, was, and were – work to create the most boring, passive sentences possible. Whether you're writing a query letter, an adventure novel, or feature article, improve it by keeping out those buzzing be's.

A verb can either do something or be something. Which engages the reader more? Doing something, of course. Now, those "be" verbs exist because they serve a useful purpose in communication. The trouble is that writers tend to overuse them when they are struggling with what they want to say. Often, be's will mask the action, dulling the message. So, swat those be's and employ some dynamic verbs instead.

Writing that relies heavily on be verbs can sound choppy, amateurish, and lacking in substance – much like a school report. "Hawaii is the 50th state in the United States. It was annexed in 1958. There are eight major islands and many minor islands that make up Hawaiian island group. Tourism is a large part of the Hawaiian economy." What a shame to make such a beautiful state into a snoozefest.

Let's try that again: "Hawaii, the 50th state, joined the U.S. in 1958. Eight major islands and 124 islets make up the island group. Balmy weather year-round, exquisite beaches, and active volcanoes draw tourists from around the world." The second passage contains the same amount of words, but it tells the reader much more, and in a more interesting way. How? By eliminating the verb "to be."

Try this sentence: "The new copiers are having a positive effect on our productivity." This sentence is OK, but it's bland. What does it mean? What are the copiers doing? Is there a strong verb that means the same thing as "having a positive effect on"? Yes – how about "improve"? "The new copiers improve our productivity." Now that's a strong, clear, concise sentence.

Sometimes the verb "to be" signals a passive voice sentence. This is a sentence in which the performer of the action is hidden in the back of the sentence. Notice who performs the action in this sentence: "The new packaging design was created by David and his team." Who has created the design? David and his team. So, "David and his team" should be the subject of the sentence, not stuck in a prepositional phrase at the tail end of it. The active voice version reads more smoothly: "David and his team created the new marketing design."

If you want to give recognition to David and his team, phrase the message with them in the lead. Ah, but what if the packaging design is the more important element of the sentence? Then, the passive voice is acceptable. Most of the time, though, passive voice drags out the message, hiding both the doer and the action.

Let's try another example. "The writers were encouraged by several presenters to submit their best work." The verb in this sentence is "were encouraged." Who were encouraging writers? The presenters. So, they will become the subject of the new and improved sentence: "Several presenters encouraged the writers to submit their best work."

Here's your homework. Take a piece that you've written, but you're having a problem getting published. Circle all the "to be" verbs – is, are, was, were – and any prepositional phrases that go with them. Now for the fun part: find the right action verbs to replace those weak ones. Use bold and daring verbs. Don't be afraid to revise whole sections if the writing needs it.

When you swat those pesky be's, you'll reward yourself with stronger messages.
IN Icon

Debra Weaver currently teaches communication arts for high school students and communication topics for adult seminar participants. Her writing appears in Chicken Soup for the Dieter's Soul. She has begun her latest project, launching a group coaching program for aspiring writers.

Sign Up and Use Our New Forums! Voice Your Opinion! Discuss Our Content! Ask for Writing Assistance. Post Your Successes, Queries or Information Requests. Collaborate with Other Writers.

© Freelance Writing Organization - International 1999-2049

Items Of INterest
IN This Issue
Constant Improvement
We're Getting Older! Thank you!
Standing On The Digital Platform
NaNoWriMo Wrap
Official Words From Pop Culture
NaNoWriMo Killed Her
Career Fair For Women
Unotchit LongPen™
Norman Mailer: American Literary Giant
Writer, Inventor, I Am

Support IN
Receive Free Gifts
$20.00 Voluntary Contribution
$35.00 Voluntary Contribution
$50.00 Voluntary Contribution

New Novelist Software

Effectively Manage Your List

Writers Digest 101 Site Award

Your Ad Here

Traffic Swarm For Writers

Hottest Books This Month!

Whose Books Are Turning Into Movies?
Bald Ego
Mouse Over To Pause

Writer’s Block
The path to inspiration starts
Upon the trails we’ve known;
Each writer’s block is not a rock,
But just a stepping stone.

Poetry Is Not
Penned to the page
Waiting for us to admire.
It is only a lonely thought
Caught by tears on fire.

Silent Echoes
A quiet rhyme upon a page
Is what a poet gives;
Some gentle words whispered in trust
To see if memory lives.

Bard From Deadlines
What makes a poem finally work
Is not the time it takes;
It’s how the poet used the muse
To prophet from mistakes.

Be Mused
The art and craft of poetry
Are not so far apart;
The craft comes from the cunning,
The rest comes from the heart.

Fine Vintage
Don’t plant your poem on the page
As though you’re hanging drapes;
It’s shape and flow should come and grow
Like wild summer grapes.

Getting It Write
Writers write what they know best,
Their passions, fears, and dreams;
Writers rarely write about
What other call their “themes.”

Double Vision
A writer’s life is paradox,
It’s more than what it seems;
We write of our reality,
The one inside our dreams.

The echo of a promise,
The thunder of a sigh,
The music of a memory,
A child asking why.

Letter Perfect
Twenty six symbols arranged on a page
Can send a soul to heaven or torment it with rage,
Can free a fragile world or hold it in its net--
The power and the magic of the mighty alphabet.

The Write of Passage
The jump from writing just for fun
To getting paid for it
Begins when you first realize
You know you’ll never quit.

It is not the magic of his wings
That sets us free from our bond.
It is the muse within ourselves
That lets our words lift us beyond.

Photo Poet
Consider your mind the darkroom,
Consider your life the lens,
Consider your eye the camera
On whose focus the poem depends.

Rising Moon
A poem is a rising moon
Shining on the sea,
An afterglow of all we know,
Of all we hope to be.

Star Light
Writing a poem,
Reaching a star,
In making good art
We find who we are.

Spider Web
A poem is a spider web
Spun with words of wonder,
Woven lace held in place
By whispers made of thunder.

The final draft upon the screen,
At last my poem’s through;
A verse of only four short lines--
I rewrote twenty-two!

Read All Of Charles Ghigna's Poetry at

Our Own Banner Rotator System
Any banner seen below is either our own or one of our members.
Support the cause - click a banner.

Want Your 468x60 Banner Above? It's FREE For Newly Published Books

© Freelance Writing Organization - International 1999-2049
All Rights Reserved. Copying in any way strictly forbidden.
Our Disclaimer Is Based Upon McIntyre's First Law: "Under the right circumstances, anything I tell you may be wrong."