The curse of “There Was/There Is”

Wordiness isn’t good. You’ve probably heard that being said a thousand times before, but what does it mean? Well, one of the first items we’ll tackle in regards to wordiness, is “there is/there was”. Most of the times, it’s completely unnecessary to add “there is/there was” at the start of your sentence.

Let’s illustrate this with a few examples.

There were stars shining in the sky.

Oh, the wordiness! Why go that way when you can put it much simpler?

Stars shined in the sky.

The meaning of the sentence is exactly the same, but we’ve gotten rid of the wordiness. Time for another example.

There was screaming, and it pierced my ears.

This sentence is so wordy it even sounds weird. There’s a simple trick to make it better: delete ‘there was’.

Screams pierced my ears.

Are you up for one more? All right, here we go.

There were men attacking the villagers. There was lightning and thunder clouding the sky, and the villagers screamed. There was panic all around.

Sentences like these do two things. First, they add unnecessary words to your manuscript. Second, they slow down the action significantly. They’re boring and repetitive. Try this one instead:

Men attacked the villagers. Lightning and thunder clouded the sky, and the villagers screamed in all around panic.

As you can see, it’s a little more complicated here. But in a few simple steps, we can get the previous sentence. First, delete all the “there were/there was” words from the sentence. Then make a few of the verbs active, and combine sentences to fit well together. It’s much more enjoyable to read.

Have any questions? Leave your question in the comments below, and I’ll respond as soon as possible.


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