One of the biggest enemies of fine writing? The verb “to be.” In all its tenses, this verb can leach the impact out of almost any sentence. It sometimes seems impossible to avoid, but you need to seek it out and destroy it with a vengeance.

Your best weapon against “to be”? Stronger, more active verbs.

Take a look at this paragraph:

My husband and I were enjoying a warm, breezy stroll. The blue sky was strewn with wisps of white, the air was crisp and tinged with the perfume of magnolia trees in bloom, and the Seine was sparkling as it flowed under the Pont des Arts.

Yikes! “To be” verbs have crept in everywhere.

While not always easy, you can remedy this “to be” overkill by rephrasing a few lines and replacing the offending verbs with more evocative ones.

See how I fixed it here:

My husband and I strolled down the Rive Gauche, enjoying the April breeze on our faces. Above us stretched an endless blue sky strewn with wisps of white. The crisp air carried the perfume of magnolia trees in bloom, and the Seine sparkled as it flowed under the Pont des Arts.

When it comes to this tricky verb, ruthless editing can transform weak writing into powerful, descriptive prose.

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