dancing in e-prime

I have a confession to make. E-prime fascinates me.

Some haven’t heard of the style before, so allow me to give a quick explanation. Those who write in e-prime eschew all forms of the verb ‘to be’, allowing the restrictiveness of the style to force them to find other, more interesting (and often more accurate) verbs. This list includes was, is, are, am, be, been. ‘The house was blue’ becomes ‘The blue house’ or ‘The house looked blue’, ‘I was angry’ transforms into ‘I felt angry’. While the style requires work, patience, and creativity, I find that it also challenges me to consider the language I use carefully. Often I remove entire passages, rewrite paragraphs to fit with the style, but the effort shows. Readers don’t typically notice the extra work, but sometimes they can see that something in the prose differs from what they have grown used to.

Try it. See if you can find independence from easy verbs.

6 thoughts on “dancing in e-prime

  1. What a good idea. Just the other day I thought I relied on “to be” too much during a certain chapter. <– See, I’m already practicing. I could have written, “I was thinking I had used ‘to be’ too much just the other day,” but I didn’t.

  2. I’ve never heard of e-prime, but I love the concept — it seems much quicker, more concise. I’m willing to bet that after doing it for page after page, the effort on paper comes across so much better than before.

  3. This sounds a lot like using active versus passive voice.
    Which is a good thing. 🙂
    I’ve noticed a trend in a lot of fiction recently (past ten years-ish) to use passive voice and “be” way too much and it really irritates me. It’s so less vibrant.

  4. E Prime has not only helped my writing but my mental health to boot! I don’t think the language is an odd fascination at all! I find myself returning to its underlying principles again and again.

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