hi younger me/be are am is was ing

I see a distorted skull, with many sharp points like teeth
Photo by Anni Roenkae on Pexels.com

“be” verbs. The basic bane of writing.

Some good writing advice: you should change “be” verbs, because of how weak they make your writing. (Seriously, use a word that means something more specific than “exists.”)

Nowadays, I’ve apparently spent long enough revising stories and cleaning up “be” verbs in my writing, that every time a text says “was” or “is” or “been” or “are” or “were” or “am,” it sticks out like a slash of gray in a meadow and I have an itch to change it.

But sometimes I force myself not to change it, because sometimes a “be” verb is the best word. Like right there. I’m (BUZZ “be” verb alert BUZZ) not going to say, “sometimes a ‘be’ verb stands as the best word” because that’s (buzz again) extra and annoying.

Moral of the story: change “be” verbs sometimes, but sometimes, don’t.

Yes, that’s (buzz again) terribly unhelpful advice. I know.

I could talk about passive vs. active voice and present participles, I could provide examples and encourage you to employ stronger verbs, but…if you really want to know when to and when not to replace a “be” verb with some other word in your writing, you have to practice writing.

And even after lots of practice, you still sometimes don’t know.

Okay, younger me?

Just like it’s (buzz) easy to tell the difference between a concert musician, and a musician who has practiced violin for just a year, so is (buzz) it easy to tell the difference between a master writer and a writer who’s practiced for just a year.

Just like it’s (buzz) easy to hear within 10 seconds whether you’re (buzz) listening to a professional pianist or a pianist with one year of experience, so is (buzz) it easy to tell between the writing of an expert and the writing of someone with one year of experience.

But don’t worry, past me–you’ve got years ahead of you.


I’m (buzz) going to end on this side note–does anyone else pick up a book, start reading it, and get so preoccupied with the author’s use of filter words and “be” verbs, or the clever sentence structure, or how often or not the author says “said,” that they lose track of what’s (buzz) actually going on in the story?

Has anyone else’s writing practice ruined reading for them?


Check this out if you’d like to support me in my writing journey! And my journey back to enjoying reading without overanalyzing it!

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