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E Prime as a Revision Strategy

What is E Prime?
It is a method of writing that eliminates all concepts and forms of the verb “to be”
"be", "is", "am", "are", "was", "were", "been" and "being" (and their equivalent
contractions "'m", "'s", and "'re").

Rationale
Writing that uses E Prime usually does not contain passive voice (the poison was
prepared by Claudius vs. Claudius prepared the poison). When writing in this way, one
tends to eliminate ambiguity. You should always strive for clarity in your writing.

Words to avoid Words that are permitted


• be • become;
• being • has; have; having; had (I've;
• been You've)
• am • do; does; doing; did
• is; isn't • can; could
• are; aren't • will; would (they'd)
• was; wasn't • shall; should
• were; weren't • ought
• Contractions formed from a • may; might; must
pronoun and a conjugation of to be:
o I'm
o you're; we're; they're
o he's; she's; it's
o there's; here's
o where's; how's; what's;
who's
o that's

Instead of using forms of “to be”, think about what you mean to say and find a better
verb. For example: “When Ophelia is talking in this scene she is making very little
sense.” Instead: “When Ophelia speaks in this scene she appears to make very little
sense.”

Other examples:
Standard English E-Prime

To exist or not to exist,


To be or not to be,
I ask this question.
That is the question.
— modified from Shakespeare's
— Shakespeare's Hamlet
Hamlet

Roses are red; Roses look red;


Violets are blue. Violets look blue.
Honey is sweet, Honey tastes sweet,
And so are you. As sweet as you.

Alice was beginning to get very tired of Alice had just begun to tire of sitting by
sitting by her sister on the bank, and of her sister on the bank, and of having
having nothing to do: once or twice she had nothing to do: once or twice she had
peeped into the book her sister was reading, peeped into the book her sister read, but it
but it had no pictures or conversations in it, had no pictures or conversations in it, 'and
'and what is the use of a book,' thought Alice what use has a book,' thought Alice
'without pictures or conversation?' 'without pictures or conversation?'
— Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures — modified from Lewis Carroll's
in Wonderland Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Do not, however, let this paralyze you. Keep in mind that the purpose of this exercise is
to help you make sure that your writing is clear and accurate. Don’t try to write your
rough draft while avoiding all forms of “to be”; use this for revision.