Daily Dispatch

Get to the Point

Weak Sentence Starters You Use All the Time

By | Jan.12.15 | Daily Dispatch, Get to the Point, Skills

Get to the Point

A basic rule of good writing is to make every word count. “There is,” “there are” and “it is” are the weakest ways to start a sentence. Used this way, “there” and “it” are placeholders for the real subject of the sentence. They are particularly off-putting at the start of a paragraph.

When you write, “There are three reasons this Court should reconsider its ruling,” you mean, “Three reasons this Court should reconsider its ruling exist.” Of course, you wouldn’t use this unnatural sentence format. Rather, think of the subject of the sentence (here, the three reasons) as half of a sentence. Then use an action verb, rather than a form of “to be.” You can make almost any sentence stronger by getting rid of the placeholder.

“Three reasons support the Petition for Reconsideration.”
“The Court should reconsider its ruling for three reasons.”

Action verbs show something is happening. Though not every action verb describes a visible activity, if you can imagine seeing the activity, an action verb can describe it. Strong sentences usually feature action verbs. Versions of “to be,” whether past, present or future, are not action verbs; they are linking verbs. Linking verbs work like an equal sign to connect sentence parts.

Rather than use constructions like “there are,” look at your next sentence and see if you can combine it with the prior one. Concise sentences are more persuasive. Readers may miss your message among rambling sentences. One way to keep their attention is to avoid “there is,” “there are” and “it is.”

Theda C. “Teddy” Snyder mediates workers’ compensation cases throughout California. An attorney since 1977, she has practiced in a variety of settings and frequently speaks and writes about settlements and the business of law. She is a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management. Based in Los Angeles, Teddy can be found at www.WCMediator.com, and you can follow her on Twitter @WCMediator.

Catch up on past “Get to the Point” columns here.

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