Posted by: wordsmithsuk | April 9, 2013

Add power to your writing by avoiding dummy subjects


You can improve your style by avoiding starting sentences with ‘there is’, ‘there are’, ‘there was’, ‘there will be’, ‘it is’, ‘it was’ and so on. Starting sentences with a dummy subject (there, it) and the verb ‘to be’ weakens your message and makes your sentence longer than necessary. ‘There is/are’ are empty phrases that do not add anything to the meaning of the orignal sentence.

Look at these examples.

Don’t write:

  • There are two reasons why we have changed the system.

Write instead:

  • We have changed the system for two reasons.

Don’t write:

  • There was a riot in London in which several shops were burned

Write instead:

  • Rioters burned several London shops.

Don’t write:

  • There are three things that you need to remember: close the window, lock the door, and set the alarm.

Write instead:

  • Remember these three things: close the window, lock the door, and set the alarm.

Don’t write:

  • It is sunny today.

Write instead:

  • The sun is shining today.

Removing ‘There is’, “There are’ and ‘It is’ places more emphasis on the subject of the sentence and gives you an opportunity to use a strong verb. Furthermore, every word in the sentence now serves a purpose in conveying your message.

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Responses

  1. Thanks for the advice. I’ll be sure to use this as I’m editing my first novel.


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