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Editor's Notes, July 13, 2004 --Is this little verb giving your writing a knock out punch?
July 13, 2004

"Though fame is a help in selling books,
it is of small use in writing them."
-- Ben Hecht

I had hoped to have a new POD company for you with this newsletter, but I have not completed the level of investigating I want to do when I make a recommendation. Next month I hope to have the answers I need.

In the mean time, let me challenge you with a writing tip currently at the top of my list. Get rid of the verb to be. Power resides in doing, not in being. Powerful writing propels the reader through your piece.

Try this exercise. Print out a page of your writing. Now circle each use of be, am, are, is, was, or were. (Other incarnations of the verb to be exist, but these will do as a start.) Each of those offenders probably sits sucking power from your work. Now think about what action you really intend in the sentence and use that verb.

I find this hard, to do, too, so don't feel too badly when you produce a page full of circles. I've had to rewrite bits of this email because I wanted to produce a to-be-free message. The rewrites created tighter writing that says exactly what I wanted it to say.

And the benefits? First, your work speaks with power. Your reader follows your message with an alert mind. Second, when you pay for editing, you pay less because the editor does less work. Third, you swell with justified pride in your superior writing ability.

When you do need the verb to be, it will do its job with pride.

Want to continue the challenge? Visit the Editor's Choice contest page and pit your ability against that of other writers and get a critique on your own writing.

Remember, you can ask any editing question at

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