David Pardon offers his ideas to help tighten your writing and avoid redundant words.

Scan your text for the word “There”. Each time it appears, check whether it is followed by “is” or “are”. Now ask yourself whether the sentence containing “There is” or “There are” is longer than necessary. For example: “There are two ways that question can be answered.” is nine words, but  “That question has two answers.” is only five. And … “There is much controversy surrounding immigration.” is six words whereas “Much controversy surrounds immigration.” is only four.

It doesn’t always work, but David thinks you’ll be surprised how often the word “there” points to a sentence longer than is necessary! Another reason for questioning “there is” or “there are”, especially at the start of a sentence, is because the words inevitably upset the logical order of information contained in the sentence. For example:  “There is strong public support for a law that prohibits the drinking of alcohol at sports venues.” Version 2 is tighter (17 > 12): “A law against drinking alcohol at sports venues has strong public support.”

“There are several reasons why a law against drinking alcohol at sports venues would receive strong public support.” Would be much better as: “A law against drinking alcohol at sports venues would receive strong public support for several reasons.” See the economy (18 words down to 16) and a tidy rather than untidy sentence.

Starting with “There is” forces you to use the untidy version. There is, therefore, a good reason to be wary of the word “there.” . . . Er, sorry about that. It should read:  Be wary of the word “there” for a good reason.

Why is it tidy?

The human mind is programmed to process information sequentially. For example, give someone a set of numbers, eg 3-8-4-9-2, and say you are going to ask them to do something with those numbers. They will sub-consciously re‑order them into 2-3-4-8-9 until you ask them to do something else with them.

Likewise when a reader comes to the start of a new sentence, his/her brain expects to receive the content of that sentence in a logical sequence.

To use our alcohol example, he/she will start reading the sentence expecting to learn

(1) what it’s about (the subject) followed by

(2) what is being written about the subject.

So in our example the sentence should begin with the subject (a law against drinking alcohol at sports events) followed by the information that such a law would have strong public support for several reasons. That’s a tidy sentence. Turn it the other way round, with the strong public support first and it becomes untidy because the information is given out of its order of importance.