Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Helpful Hint #4: To Use "Be" or Not to Use "Be"

I often struggle with overusing forms of the verb 'be'. Usually this occurs during the first draft stage when the action of the story moves faster than my thoughts, and word choice is not my highest priority. However, when editing I often am appalled at the overuse of linking verbs such as 'is', 'was', and 'were'. Writing instructors discourage the use of linking verbs because they create wordy, weak sentences.

Let's look at some examples:

Yesterday, I was going to the store to pick up some peaches.

Rather than was going, choose a more accurate action verb, such as drove, walked, or ran. These actually help the reader create a more vivid mental picture.

She is trying to fly a kite.

How can we reword this without the linking verb? Also consider the picture you wish to portray.

She tugs the string upward, but the kite refuses to follow.

I once saw a post on FaceBook from a fellow author sharing the best tip she learned at a workshop: eliminate the word 'was'! It remains a personal challenge for me. But when I take the time to carefully consider the picture I want to show my readers, and word my sentences accordingly, the outcome is worth it.

Which of these examples creates a more moving picture for you?

Susan was feeling lonely because her friend moved away.

After Jake moved away, Susan's loneliness consumed her.

It takes time and energy to consciously limit the use of linking verbs, but the professionals I have studied claim it makes for much better reading!

Feel free to check these related discussions:

No comments:

Post a Comment