Words to watch for: the hollow verbs

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Shape without form, shade without colour, / Paralysed force, gesture without motion“: TS Eliot’s eponymous “hollow men” are said to represent Western culture after the First World War.

It’s obviously a dramatic overstatement for me to apply Eliot’s post-apocalyptic words to a list of hollow verbs.

And yet …

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Cut “is”

This is a writing problem that is easy to correct. (10 words)

This writing problem is easy to correct. (7 words)

When editing your draft, search for the word “is.” In the two sentences above, searching for “is” and rephrasing the sentence enabled the writer to cut 30% of the original word count without losing any of the original sentence’s meaning.

Short Tip: Use the “find” function in your word processor (Ctrl+F) to search for the words “is,” “was,” “are,” and “were.” These words are symptoms of wordiness.

Here’s how and why you should cut “is” as much as possible:

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