Re: To be or not: An E-prime inquiry

Subject: Re: To be or not: An E-prime inquiry
From: Sean O'Donnell-Brown <sodonnell -at- CCMAIL -dot- WIU -dot- BGU -dot- EDU>
Date: Thu, 5 May 1994 13:44:57 CST

ENGSTROMDD -at- phibred -dot- com said
I understood there was supposed to be some sort of broad philisophical agenda
behind E-Prime; far more than the goal of clearer, more forceful writing. I
read an Atlantic Monthy article some time ago that said (disclaimer: I'm relying
on memory here) that it was originally created by a fanatic Polish linguist
who believed that the construction "to be" led to all sorts of conceptual
errors in human thinking, which in turn resulted in political problems, social
problems, etc.


Most responses to this string make reference to passive voice and specific
verbs. E-prime addresses much, much more--more than I have time to discuss on
my employer's time (though perhaps I'll put a summary together in my spare time
over the next week or so). I believe E-prime evolved as part of a much larger
linguistic movement labeled (I believe) General Semantics.

I strongly encourage anyone who considers E-prime a gimmick, a mental game
(like writing in monosyllabes and without the letter e), a response to the
overuse of "to be," or an assault on their writing arsenal--or that "it can be
taken too far"--to read _To_Be_or_Not:_An_E-Prime_Anthology_. I once leaned
that way, too.

My mind, of course, remains open.


sodonnell -at- ccmail -dot- wiu -dot- bgu -dot- edu

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