Flash 500: E-prime Challenge
|Deadline:||May 6, 2012|
Some people claim that use of the verb 'to be'—in any form—weakens writing, resulting in harmful generalizations and generally weak prose. These people suggest writing in a restricted form of the English language: E-Prime.
E-prime works just like English, except you can't use 'to be' verbs. (Alas, poor Hamlet! I knew him, readers: a fellow of powerful copula, of most excellent existential crises...) You can't say 'is,' 'are,' 'was,' 'were,' 'am,' 'are,' or any other form of 'to be.' Instead, you must seek alternative (and usually stronger) verbs to describe every action, every landscape, every weather pattern and every relationship. That sounds bizarre and unusual, but as the author of this article on E-prime as a writing tool points out, it can lead to clearer writing.
Andy (no last name given) provides several examples, among them:
"The reason he was bald is that he was addicted to twirling his hair" might become "He couldn't stop twirling his hair, so he lost it".
Clearly, removing this sentence's 'to be' verbs drastically improves it. E-Prime also gets rid of passive voice, and makes judgmental language ("You are wrong") much harder (Psychiatrists like the dialect for precisely this reason).
Andy admits, however, that E-Prime can often lead to gibberish. It will not, of itself, magically make your writing effective. For example, he points out that "Our belief in the supremacy of our reporting objectivity results in our trust of the New York Times's claim to the exhaustiveness of its coverage adequacy," uses spotless E-Prime, but can in no wise be considered clear writing.
Ultimately, Andy suggests "E-Prune," or writing normally and then removing any 'to be' verbs that muddy your writing, as a better technique for clear writing. After all, why rob yourself entirely of an important part of the English language when you can just prune it as necessary? Nonetheless, for this week's mini-contest, you will be doing exactly that.
In 500 words or fewer, write a story or non-fiction piece which does not use a single instance of the verb 'to be.' You may write in any genre, or on whatever topic you wish, so long as you adhere to this rule.
(Hint: be sure to look for contractions, too. "it's," "you're" and "I'm" all use 'to be'!)
Winners have been announced! Log in to see them.
|1st prize:||$10 cash via PayPal|
You must submit your entries before 23:59:59 on Sunday, May 6th (UTC time); we will announced the winner within one week of that date.
Entrants should not use any instance of the verb 'to be', sticking to pure E-prime as Andy of A Site About Nothing explains it.
Sharing what you've learned makes these mini-contests better for everybody: although we don't require it, we'd appreciate it if you come weigh in on the group discussion thread here
Only one entry per member, please. If you enter more than one piece, we will disqualify all of them.
Work must have Public visibility on Scribophile until we announce the winner.
Winners must have a valid Paypal account in order to receive the prize money!
To enter the contest, post your work on Scribophile and check the box that says "Enter this work into the F5 E-Prime contest". The system will automatically enter your work. You can see this checkbox until the contest deadline, given in UTC time.
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