The University of Chicago Press,
Exercises from LEGAL WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH, Bryan A. Garner

§ 13. Use strong, precise verbs. Minimize is, are, was, and were.



Rewrite the following sentences to eliminate the be-verbs:

  • Jones is in agreement with Smith.
  • The professional fees in this project are entirely dependent upon the planning techniques that the client is in favor of implementing.
  • The judge is of the opinion that it is within sound judicial discretion to determine whether, once the claim is asserted, the crime-fraud exception is applicable.
  • Where there is no express agreement, it is ordinarily taken that the authority was to last for what was a reasonable time in light of all the circumstances.


Rewrite the following passages to eliminate the be-verbs:

  • There was no light-duty work that was available at the company. The company's actions were hardly discriminatory when there was no showing that the company was practicing any type of discriminatory preference.
  • Several members were in attendance, and those present were in agreement that the board's action was violative of the bylaws.
  • This evidence is indicative that the company was desirous of creating a monopoly with the operating system.
  • Since there is a limited number of persons with the requisite skills, it is increasingly difficult for the company to hire personnel who are qualified.


In a piece of published legal writing, find two meaty paragraphs--consecutive ones--in which be-verbs predominate. Type the paragraphs, preserve an unedited version, and then revise them to reduce the number of be-verbs by at least 75%. If you're part of a writing group or class, bring a copy of the before-and-after versions for each colleague.

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© 2001, Bryan A. Garner

These exercises appear in Bryan A. Garner's Legal Writing in Plain English: A Text with Exercises, published by The University of Chicago Press and available at bookstores and on the Web at