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Question
Help!  A professor and fellow writer friend told me that using was and were more than a couple times in one page is naughty.  Yes, they are weak verbs, but in order to publish book he said that I couldn't do this.  Not that this so call rule shouldn't be respected, but C.S. Lewis did it.  He used 'was' more than twenty times in one page in one book.  Why can't I?
Please squish this rumor.  Right me writer.


Answer
Certain writing styles, words and phrases fall in and out of favor as time goes on. C.S. Lewis isn't well-known for being a great "technical" writer. He's known for telling a great story, and so it's easy to overlook those types of small things like the overuse of "was." The same goes for Ernest Hemingway: his stories weren't generally all that detailed--what made them so great were the stories themselves, and the writing just seemed to "fit" it.

The reason professors hate using "Was" is because it's sloppy writing. It's not forceful and it doesn't convey action as well. For example:

Todd was hit over the head with the mallet, and his head was bleeding.

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRING!

Try this instead:

Jenny hit Todd over the head with her mallet, sending a spray of blood across the kitchen window.

You see? You don't need "was," which is why your professor is frowning on it. Eliminate as much "was" as you can, and your writing is going to look and FEEL a LOT better.

Kenneth
www.FinalDraftLiterary.com

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