18 January 2006

To Be or Not To Be

The Word Nerd is not taking on Shakespeare today. No worries.

Today, Joel Achenbach at the Washington Post announced a new rule for commenting on his blog:
..., this blog takes a giant leap and hereby announces a new and
incontrovertible rule. We will not permit comments that employ the following
words: is, are, am, was, were, be, have been, being, and any
and all permutations, conjugations and excitations of the verb "to be."

Surely, he jests. Or surely not.

This idea of getting rid of forms of "be" recently came up in a discussion at the Oshkosh Area Writer's Club as a trick for making writing more interesting. There are places where these words are needed, no doubt. But they can also slow down the pace and flow of a piece and just clutter up otherwise good sentences.

One technique for revision that a Writer's Club member suggested was to go through a piece and circle every use of the word "be." Then try to rewrite it to get rid of it. Unless you're Shakespeare, writing Hamlet. "To Exist or not to exist" just doesn't have the same ring to it.

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