Bill Bennett

Bill Bennett

Use be verbs sparingly

If you want to make your writing clearer and more interesting, use ‘be’ verbs sparingly.

The verb to be includes:

Be, being, been, am, is, are, was, were.

Be verbs make text dull partly because of overuse, but also because they remove the reader one step from the action. They take readers the long route to meaning and can be long-winded.


Fred is dismissive of cowboy films


Fred dismisses cowboy films.

The second phrase has more energy, it propels the reader along. It expresses the same idea in a clearer, more concise way.

Be verbs turn up in passive language, staying away from them helps keep your writing in the active voice.

Old-school newspapers taught journalists to never use be verbs in headlines, but prefer strong action verbs instead. It’s hard to get away with that in today’s online world, so think instead of keeping them to a minimum.