300 Days of Better Writing

March 20, 2010

Remove “What are” Phrases

Filed under: WritingExcellence — preciseedit @ 10:55 am

We already know that to be verbs weaken writing. Examples of to be verbs are is, am, was, and are. These words are also problematic when combined with what to make what is and what are phrases. Consider these sentences.

“You know what the reasons are.”

“The technician discovered what the problem is.”

In both sentences, the weak phrases can be removed without making any other changes in the sentences and without changing the meanings. This is a clue that the phrases can, and should be, removed. They don’t add value, just more words. The revised sentences are as follows.

“You know the reasons.”

“The technician discovered the problem.”

You might not be able to do this in every case, but when you see those weak phrases, remove them and evaluate the revised sentences. In most cases, the writing will be more direct and concise.

(This is the tip for day 240 in 300 Days of Better Writing.)

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