Be and Me

I can’t help kicking off with this song—the Be-Verb Song—courtesy of Benjamin Kjos, who sang it for me after attending my workshop at Confab 2015.

I have a thing about be-verbs: am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been. Not all be-verbs. Weak be-verbs. (I describe the difference in this chapter.) I pick on this entire class of verbs—and I encourage you to pick on them, too.

Why? Because weak be-verbs bloat writing and sap it of its vitality.

The good news: Weak be-verbs make for easy targets. Spot them—just notice them—and opportunities appear. Eliminate them, and you transform your sentences into tight, energetic specimens without having to remember a bunch of rules. When you eliminate weak be-verbs—when you do just that one thing—you automatically follow a whole set of powerful-writing guidelines without having to think about them. I’m talking about the kind of guidelines in Jessica Stewart’s eight bullet points in her article “The Power of Words: Verbs,” for example, and in lots of other writing resources.

Nothing against Stewart’s eight bullet points. They work. But which would you rather remember: eight tips or one?

I hope that you’ll explore my collection of stuff related to be-verbs:

Doo-dah, doo-dah…

Last modified: October 21, 2022