One Messed-up Verb!

One way to increase vitality and energy in a paper is to see how much you’ve used the to be verb (the most messed up verb in the English language! Not only does it have eight different forms, but also it’s used as a being verb, a helping verb, and in passive voice)

As a helping verb it’s for progressive tenses (is climbing, were singing, shall be praying, etc.). 

Otherwise, it’s either equating (Tom is a teacher, there were skunks by the road, I am, etc.) or serving to create the passive voice (The book is read at Easter, a home was damaged, the car will have been repaired by next week, etc. 

The catch for passive voice is two-fold: 1) passive voice does not use the performer of an action as the subject of a sentence, and 2) the pattern is always a form of ‘to be’ + the past participle of a verb, e.g. is determined, were chosen, has been appointed, etc. 

An extremely quick way to find being verbs? 

  • Click on your <edit> menu
  • select <find> 
  • click on <more>
  • select ‘find whole words only’ (otherwise, if looking for use of ‘is ’, you’ll get his, history, this, etc.). 
  • Then, just start from the top, so to speak. Type ‘is’ in the dialogue box
  • hit <enter> 
  • the program will take you to every instance of the use of ‘is’ each time you click on <enter>
  • If there are no more instances, a prompt will say so
  • click <ok> to acknowledge the prompt, 
  • continue to type in the rest of the 'to be' verb forms, one at a time: am, are, was, were, be, being, and been
  • When you spot a revision opportunity, see how you can invert, paraphrase, rephrase, etc., to convey your meaning with the active voice, i.e. an action verb. You do not have to close the "Find" box; just click outside it (on your draft), revise, then reactivate the "Find" box by clicking on its blue title bar. Exclude present progressive tense.  Sometimes it’s tough to replace the 'to be' verb, but even if you decrease its use by ½, you’ve added 50% more power to your work!

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