Writing Tip #77

Avoid ‘there is/are’ sentence constructions. This week’s tip sort of goes hand-in-hand with last week’s, in which we discussed active/passive voice and that while it was permissible — fine, actually — to use passive voice from time to time, your writing, indeed, will be stronger by using sentences with active voice. Similarly, using “there is” or “there are” is also perfectly acceptable in a sentence, but only on occasion, if the sentence really calls for such a construction. Otherwise, sentences without “there is/are” are generally shorter and stronger. For example:

There is something fishy going on around here.

Something fishy is going on around here.

In the above case, the “there” is actually quite unnecessary and can be removed, creating a honed, more impactful statement. However, sometimes you may find that you want to stress the “there” of a situation:

There is the earring post I was looking for!

And that’s fine, as long as the construction is intentional. Just as my friend and colleague Susan Weiner tweeted to me in a discussion of last week’s tip, “Using passive voice should be an active choice,” so should your use of “there is/are.”


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