Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Seven Naughty Words

Want an easy rule to greatly improve your writing? Just avoid the following words, particularly in the abstract and introduction of your papers.

am is are was were be been

Avoiding these seven forms of "to be" will force you to write in the active tense instead of the passive making your sentences less boring. For example, instead of "It is known that all functions can be computed securely in the information theoretic setting" use "We can compute all functions securely in the information theoretic setting."

Taking this rule to the extreme can lead to some very convoluted sentences but, I promise, forcing yourself to think actively about every statement you write will make a great difference in your prose. In almost all cases the right answer is "not to be."

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