If you want to give your writing more impact and energy, pay attention to verbs. Sure, sure, the active verbs (the ones that describe what's happening and how). But don't sleep on the state-of-being verbs.
Yeah, I don't remember learning about them in English class either. (I am still acutely aware of learning them in French class, though.) Let's look at this one easy way to boost your writing quality.
What the heck is a state-of-being verb?
These little SOBs (see what I did there?) take many forms, but the ones I focus on are:
- be, being, been
- am, is, are, was, were
- have, has, had
Here's what they look like in action:
- CEO proclaims June to be Immigrant Heritage Month
- Enter now! The next drawing is planned for July 5.
- Now that the COVID state of emergency has expired, going to the office is back -- sort of.
Is there anything seriously wrong with these sentences? Not really. But they're wordy. They feel a little detached. Some are even passive voice. Mostly, they're just kind-of boring.
And I bet if you looked at some things you wrote yesterday, you might just find a few SOBs in there. So today, vow to delete them. (Bonus points if you upgrade your other verbs, too!).
How to reduce state-of-being verbs
Here's how I'd fix those example sentences.
- CEO proclaims June
to beImmigrant Heritage Month
- Enter now! The next drawing is
planned forin July.
- Even better: Enter now! Your next chance to win is July 5.
Now thatWith the COVID state of emergency has expiredlifted, going to the office is back -- sort of.
- Even snappier: With the COVID state of emergency in the rearview mirror, going to the office is back -- sort of.
And, look, sometimes, the SOB is worth using. The most common instance that works for me is when someone passes:
- Rock icon and all-around bad-ass Tina Turner has died.
In this case, the "has died" conveys some gravitas, a solemnity and formality that's appropriate in this circumstance.
So I'm not saying never, I'm just saying not as often.