3 Examples of Expletives to Be Expunged
In each of the following sentences, an expletive (a form of “there is” or “it is”) inhibits an active, concise sentence construction, and other wording is passive and/or more verbose than necessary. Discussion after each example explains the problem, and a revision demonstrates the solution.
1. There have been several immediate actions that the agency has taken.
To produce a more concise sentence, find the buried subject (“the agency”) and move it to the head of the sentence, then omit the expletive and the attendant verb or verb phrase (and the now-superfluous that): “The agency has taken several immediate actions.”
2. For each initiative, there will be a number of processes that need to change, as well as new processes that may need to be created.
Here, because of the modifying introductory phrase, the expletive is not so obtrusive, and in this case, the syntax is not doubly passive—the subject immediately follows the expletive, rather than being twice removed, as in the previous example. Nevertheless, the sentence is improved by beginning the main clause with the subject rather than the expletive; also, replace one “need to” or the other with must to avoid repetition: “For each initiative, a number of processes must change and new processes need to be created.”
3. While each bankruptcy case is unique, there are standard requirements that must be met by all creditors.
Again, beginning the main clause with a substantial subject rather than an expletive will render the sentence more concise: “While each bankruptcy case is unique, standard requirements must be met by all creditors.” Additionally, however, note that passive sentence construction disguises the true subject: “While each bankruptcy case is unique, all creditors must meet standard requirements.”
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