Writing Well: Avoiding “There is”

June 5, 2006

There are several ways to improve your writing for the college entrance examinations and your college application essays.

This sentence features a form of weak syntax known as "expletive construction." Phrases that begin with "there" or "it" and a form of "to be" are often unnecessarily wordy and should generally be avoided. (The word "expletive," when used as an adjective, can mean "serving to fill a vacancy" and refers to the lack of meaning offered by these phrases.)

Notice the impact made by restructuring the sentence to avoid the expletive construction:

You can improve your writing for the college entrance examinations and your college application essays in several ways.

Removing the expletive phrase "There are" places more emphasis on the subject ("you") and the object ("writing"). Furthermore, every word in the sentence now serves a purpose in conveying the meaning of the sentence. "There are" is an empty phrase that did not add anything to the original sentence.

Review the following pairs of sentences and notice the difference that removing an expletive construction can make:

  1. There is a dog sitting on my bed.
  2. A dog is sitting on my bed.

  1. There are three things that you need to remember: close the window, lock the door, and bring the cake.
  2. Remember these three things: close the window, lock the door, and bring the cake.

  1. There was a glass pitcher, which was full of lemonade, on the table.
  2. A glass pitcher of lemonade sat on the table.
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2 Responses to “Writing Well: Avoiding “There is””

  1. John F Says:

    Great advice!!

  2. David W Says:

    And of course the same advice goes for “It is”


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