1. MustWrite
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    MustWrite Member

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    Writing in E-Prime and avoiding existential verbs..

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by MustWrite, Jul 8, 2014.

    I don't know if this is the right place to post this-
    Anyway I was reading something about writing in E-Prime which is basically avoiding the use of the verb to be, because it assigns static qualities to people, places and things despite the fact that people, places and things change. So apart from keeping us out of the passive voice trap it is also good to try getting out of this way of thinking and writing, to push ourselves a little.

    Anyway I was wondering if anyone here had tried writing in E-Prime or had any thoughts on 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    It forces you to find new and better ways of wording stuff, and I was curious whether anyone here had tried it?
     
  2. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is uncanny. I just heard this term for the first time a few hours ago and I still have the tab open.

    Anyway, I took a writing class in high school that enforced E-Prime (without calling it that) in most assignments. It was one of the best exercises I have ever done to improve my writing.

    Of course, it is a severely constrained form of English that has little use as anything other than an exercise. Identification, equivalence, the progressive tense, and other constructions that require a copula, are fundamental uses of English.

    The benefit of the exercise is that it forces the writer to avoid the passive voice. The passive voice is not inherently bad (sometimes even necessary), but one of the most frequent causes of ineffective writing is to use the passive voice where the active voice could fulfill the same purpose more directly.

    However, E-Prime discourages abstraction. Abstraction is arguably the most powerful of all linguistic tools. Would you rather say "that is a computer" or "that thing uses electricity to take information from the user, process it, and display the results back to the user"? The OP mentions that the copula assigns static properties to objects that are not actually static, and that is exactly why the copula is an indispensable expressive tool. It brings categorical thought to life.

    In that sense, E-Prime is also a neat exercise in self-deprivation. You realize how important something is (e.g. the ability to express abstract thought) when you deprive yourself of it.
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2014
  3. MustWrite
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    MustWrite Member

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    Thanks for that insightful reply :) I just saw that my post went weird- don't know what happened to it yesterday- maybe it was the cat! Now how do I chop all that white space off? I don't know how to edit it!
     

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