There Is Weakness; There Are Boring Passages

My pet, Peeve, growls whenever someone uses the construction “there is,” or “there are,” as in “there are international laws against denying asylum seekers a chance to make their cases,” or “there is nothing standing in the way of ICE agents plucking suspected undocumented immigrants off of public buses.” Even the past or future tense, it’s a stinker of a construction: “There were women lining the ballroom;” “there will be colonies on the moon.”

Rewrite to make active the first two examples above and you come up with the much more vivid and appealing, “international law forbids denying asylum seeks a chance to make their cases,” or “international law requires countries to let asylum seekers make a case for refuge.” And: “No law denies ICE agents the authority to pluck suspected undocumented immigrants off of public busses.” Feel the difference? In the past and future are not “Women lined the ballroom,” and “colonies will be a reality on the moon,” more vivid and brisk? I can answer that: Yes, they are. Use “there is” and its derivatives in your first draft if you must, but  in the revision stage tune into “there is” and “there are” and rewrite to use more active wording.

 

 

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