Tuesday’s Tutor: Four First Steps in Editing – “To Be or NOT To Be”

EASY AS A, B, C . . . from BB

The subject of our sentences—a person, place, thing, or a pronoun standing in for the person, place or thing—should be specific and interesting: a person’s name, Wyndell; or a word indicating his/her job, the teacher; station in life, His Majesty; names of buildings, the Washington Monument; specific places, Kailua Beach, etc; but NOT “it,” “that,” “these” and other rather non-specific words.  The problem is compounded by adding some form of the to be verb: is, was, will be, or a combination of have/had and the to be verb: had been, will have been, etc.  These combinations of a weak subject with a weak verb lead to . . . guess what?  WEAK (or passive) sentences.

Look for the ones you write, especially at the beginnings of your sentences and paragraphs:

It had been a long night of rain, thunder and hail. 

There were often too many things to do and too little time to finish the work. 

That was always something that bothered me.  (Here, we’ve got that twice!)

Certain combinations showing up too often in your manuscript? One trick is to begin with the nearest noun as your subject and make a different word serve as the verb.  In the first example, the earliest noun is night: 

Night fell too quickly with only the sounds of rain, thunder and hail to keep me company.

When the particular noun-as-subject doesn’t work, the sentence may need to be turned around:

We had little time to finish the work because we had too much to do.

Finally, you may choose a complete rewrite to come up with an interesting sentence:

As night fell, all too often rain and hail pounded the roof, and lightning took out our power; but what bothered me the most was the inability to finish my work.

In the Feb. 19th “Tuesday’s Tutor,” I’ll talk about watching out for those pesky Timeline Words.

BIO: Brenda Bensch, M.A., is a teacher of many years’ experience, a writer, and a freelance editor.  After multiple decades teaching in Utah’s university, college, high school and community ed. classrooms (English, fiction and non-fiction writing, reading, study skills, drama, humanities, debate, math, and others), she invites you to “Ask The Teacher”at  http://BenschWensch.wordpress.com


See you day-after-tomorrow for Thursday’s 13


1 Comment

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One response to “Tuesday’s Tutor: Four First Steps in Editing – “To Be or NOT To Be”

  1. That sure reads like my good friend Brenda. I think I’ll save it for future reference. You know I need it.

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