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Anxious gatekeeping

Analogous to nervous cluelessness is something we might call “anxious gatekeeping.”   This is desire to police the borders of poetry, or of...

Monday, April 18, 2011


Some writing advisors will tell you not to over-rely on the verb "to be" or on adjectives. Yet look how much work is done in this very well-written paragraph by adjectives with the copulative verb:
Now picture one kind of “bad” student. This child is obsessive, inflexible, a bad listener. Prone to daydreaming, preferring her own company, idiosyncratic in her tastes, she is a solitary, possibly discontented child. In one way, she is a classroom problem, with disorders of attention or attachment. She is also an eccentric; an artist; perhaps a “genius”; in any case, an economic burden, a proto-elitist, with the capacity for generative unhappiness. One might go so far as to call her a natural humanities major.

The entire central part of the paragraph is nothing more than a series of copulae, with the verb "is" and adjectives and nouns afterwards. Why does this work? The sentence structure is varied, the words are well-chosen. The reader is not counting instances of the verb "to be" to see whether the writing is active and vivid or not.

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