The “Be” test for writers

“To be or not to be” is one of the most famous phrases in the English language, thanks to William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Despite that line’s power, forms of “be” often indicate weak writing.

To raise the impact of your writing, go on a search-and-destroy mission for forms of “to be.”

For example, change “Our firm is using an algorithm” to “Our firm uses an algorithm.” As this example suggests, searching for “ing” will highlight text that will benefit from edits.


Image courtesy of Dan /


2 replies
  1. Jackie Dishner
    Jackie Dishner says:

    I’ll never forget that lesson (remove the verb “to be” from your writing). But I didn’t learn it in j-school. I learned it in a joke-writing class.

  2. Susan Weiner, CFA
    Susan Weiner, CFA says:


    It sounds as if there’s a great story behind learning that tip in a joke-writing class. Thank you for taking the time to comment!

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