In this recurring feature, we’re sharing tips for editors from the desk of Douglas Gibson. Good for those starting out or old hands who need a reminder, these guidelines form an engaging guide for sharp-eyed wordsmiths.
A tip for all writers is to avoid the use of the word “there.” If it’s used as a noun to denote location (“When we got there, we stopped.”), it’s fine.
But as soon as it enters the narrative as an adverb with the chilling words “There is” or “There are,” it serves to encourage sloppy, boring writing, usually full of static nouns, and reminding the reader of a government report.
Instead of “There are many examples . . .” try “Examples abound . . .” or “Many examples show . . .”
Editors should hunt down these “there”s, and writers should avoid them.