4 Reasons to Ditch “There Is” and the Like in Stories

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Here are the problems: there is, there are, there was, there were, it is, it was, and here is. Why do editors fuss over there is and the like?

1. Dialog should reflect what characters would say, but writers should tighten dialog.

Characters do say the above openers, such as there is.

Chase and Kristin drove past Cannamart. “There is one good reason I shop at Cannamart. The low prices.”

Sentences similar to this example still stop me. Most people would use the contraction There’s:

Better: Chase and Kristin drove past Cannamart. “There’s one good reason I shop at Cannamart. The low prices.”

But why not ditch there is?

Better: Chase and Kristin drove past Cannamart. “I shop at Cannamart for the low prices.”

This says the same thing and is less wordy.

2. There is and the like employ the overused verb to be and exhibit passive voice.

Jason machine-gunned orders to his staff. It was his way of preventing them from lollygagging.

The second sentence is wordy. The writer slows down the pace. “Lollygagging” alone works for the contrast between the fast, machine-gunned orders and the slow hires’ speed.

Better: Jason machine-gunned orders to his staff to prevent them from lollygagging.

Better: Jason machine-gunned orders to his staff and terminated their lollygagging.

 This example moves the first example from passive to active voice.

3. Here was (is) is wordy and passive.

Jan was in a good mood. Here was the right moment to tell Janice what he thought.

Better: Jan’s good mood furnished the right moment to tell her what he thought.

4. Passive expressions such as there were contain the uninteresting to be verb.

There were six maids in the queen’s chamber.

Ditch there were and add an interesting action verb.

Better: Six maids flitted around the queen in her chamber.

There were four deer in the flower beds.

Better: Four deer trampled the petunias in the flower beds.

There was bitterness in my heart.

Better: Bitterness gnawed my heart.

Search for there is and the like in your stories and try to rewrite the sentences, ditching the passive expressions.

What other problems have you seen in writers using such expressions as there is?

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Sticky Sentences Slow or Confuse Readers

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ProWritingAid introduced me to sticky sentences. ProWritingAid says this about sticky sentences, “A sticky sentence is one that is full of glue words.” To me, it’s a special way of looking at wordiness.

Sticky (or Glue) Words

Glue words are words that the reader has to go through before he gets to exactly what the sentence means to get across.

Oh dear, that last sentence is a sticky sentence.

The glue or sticky words are: are, that, the, has, to, go, through, before, to, what, the, to, get, across.

Wow, that’s a lot of glue words.

ProWritingAid suggests writers’ sentences contain less than 45% glue words.

The culprit sentence above contains 23 words. ProWritingAid identified 14 glue words. 14/23=64%

image by Pexels

 

Not all the identified glue words are making the sentence a sticky sentence. Each could be fine in other sentences. It’s the number of them that tires or confuses the reader.

 

Let me rewrite the sentence.

Glue words are words the reader must wade through before he receives the sentence’s idea.

My sentence still has 6 sticky words: are, the, must, through, before, the. But the sentence contains less than 45% and is easier to read.

6/15 = 40%

Here are more examples. I’ll underline glue words.

Examples:

Here are a few more examples of sticky words in sentences. (64%)

Here are additional sticky-sentence examples. (33%)

 

It was wonderful to be in this house for the first time while the realtor was not there to watch her appraise it. (65%)

It was wonderful to be inside the house without the realtor present watching her appraise the rooms. (41%)

image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images

We walked out to the truck to get more things as one of the crew struggled with all his might with its back door. (67%)  

We walked outside to collect more furniture as a crew member struggled with the truck’s rear door. (41%)

More glue words not noted above: some, should, going, up, down, right, left, straight, off, over, if, not, other.

Watch for sticky (or glue) words in your sentences. Click to tweet.

What is another sticky word you avoid?

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Suddenly unemployed, Allie Masterson returns home to Cary, North Carolina where she caddies for her father on the PGA Seniors Tour. There, she encounters a man who possesses an alluring gift of reading the contours of the green. Fascinated with his uncanny ability, Allie is excited to meet the Green Whisperer—until she discovers that the easygoing caddy is actually Shoo Leonard, the boy who teased her relentlessly when they were kids. Despite Allie’s reservations, when Shoo is faced with having to overcome a hand injury, she agrees to use her sport science degree to become his trainer…and then she falls for him.

 Shoo Leonard is grateful to Allie for her singular determination to get him ready for the PGA tour, but he isn’t ready for anything more. Still raw from a broken engagement and focused on his career, he’s content to be her fist-bumping buddy…but then he falls for her.

What seems like a happily-ever-after on the horizon takes a turn when Allie decides she’s become a distraction to Shoo’s career. Is it time for her to step away or can The Putting Green Whisperer find the right words to make her stay?

Watch for the Word Some in Your Story

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In my readings, I’ve noticed many unnecessary occurrences of the word some. I have to ferret out that sneaky word from my drafts. But I don’t delete all of them. Sometimes some is the correct word.

Where the word some works.

Example

> “Did you read all of the book?”

   “I read some of it.”

Although some works, it’s a vague word here. If how much of the book read is important to the story, a more specific word is better.

Suppose the person asking is a contest organizer talking to a procrastinating judge. The organizer will want to know how many pages out of the total number of pages the judge has read. The judge would know that’s what the organizer is seeking.

But suppose the person asking is a mother talking to a teen who needs to complete a book report. Some would be appropriate for an evading teen. The next dialogue statement from the mother might be:

“Exactly how many pages have you read?”

Where some doesn’t work well.

Free-Photos

Example

> Daryl grabbed his phone and tapped in some numbers.

Some isn’t necessary.

< Daryl grabbed his phone and tapped in numbers.

This is more concise and punchier.

Example

> I wish you’d write some more tips on your blog.

Does the speaker want the blogger to write more tips, or does the speaker wish to limit the number to a few more tips. Probably the former. Some isn’t necessary.

< I wish you’d write more tips on your blog.

Example

> Jerry poked some ruffles on her sleeve.

This sounds like Jerry singled out particular ruffles to poke.

< He poked the ruffles on her sleeve.

image by dietmaha

Example

< They played some tennis before getting ready for dinner.

Some is unnecessary or, if necessary, is imprecise.

> We played tennis before getting ready for dinner.

We played two sets of tennis before getting ready for dinner.

Example

> She’d softened her attitude some toward him and given him hope.

Some used for degrees is vague and doesn’t add to the meaning of this sentence. It causes wordiness. The word softened already assumes a degree compared to changed her attitude.

< She’d softened her attitude toward him and given him hope.

Example

> We have some exciting news, girls. You’re going to have a brother.

This sounds like the parents have only a part of the exciting new that they could have. Remove some, and the excitement of the statement rises.

We have exciting news, girls. You’re going to have a brother.

As in the last example, some becomes a weasel word, sucking the life out of adjacent words. Some sucked the life out of exciting.

Watch for the word some; it can be vague and unnecessary. Click to tweet.

What are other vague, unnecessary words?

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Suddenly unemployed, Allie Masterson returns home to Cary, North Carolina where she caddies for her father on the PGA Seniors Tour. There, she encounters a man who possesses an alluring gift of reading the contours of the green. Fascinated with his uncanny ability, Allie is excited to meet the Green Whisperer—until she discovers that the easygoing caddy is actually Shoo Leonard, the boy who teased her relentlessly when they were kids. Despite Allie’s reservations, when Shoo is faced with having to overcome a hand injury, she agrees to use her sport science degree to become his trainer…and then she falls for him.

 Shoo Leonard is grateful to Allie for her singular determination to get him ready for the PGA tour, but he isn’t ready for anything more. Still raw from a broken engagement and focused on his career, he’s content to be her fist-bumping buddy…but then he falls for her.

What seems like a happily-ever-after on the horizon takes a turn when Allie decides she’s become a distraction to Shoo’s career. Is it time for her to step away or can The Putting Green Whisperer find the right words to make her stay?