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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

E-Prime the Classroom

We all want our students to write with clarity, but seldom do we give them the tools to get the job done. Student writing often appears both vague and flat. We tell them to tighten up their language, use a variety of verbs, to show and not tell. We tell them lots of things and expect them to get it. Sadly, most students don’t get it at all. They want a rule and not ambiguity.

We must E-Prime our classes. E-Prime prohibits the use of the verb form “to be” in all its forms. For example the phrase “roses are red” becomes “roses appear red”. The phrase “the book was great” becomes “I like the book”. Cool, huh?

Obvious bonus: practicing E-Prime eliminates the passive voice.

Therefore, ban the forms of the verb “to be” in all written work. Essentially, transform the classroom into an E-Prime zone. I recommend reading Elaine C. Johnson’s “Discovering E-Prime” for a classroom perspective on E-Prime.

To recap, E-Prime bans:
  • be
  • being
  • be
  • being
  • been
  • am
  • is; isn't
  • are; aren't
  • was; wasn't
  • were; weren't
  • I'm
  • you're; we're; they're
  • he's; she's; it's
  • there's; here's; there's
  • where's; how's; what's; who's
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