To be verbs. They always show up on the list of words you should avoid. To be verbs can often make a sentence weak or passive. And many sentences can be improved by using a stronger verb. A more descriptive word.
So the ones you want to look for are: is/am/are/was/were/be/been/being. Here are some of my examples from The Proper Way to Say Goodbye that I changed.
-Being a shrink, he was an expert in interrogation techniques.
Being a shrink qualified him as an expert in interrogation techniques.
-Most of the room had cleared before my bag was packed.
I packed my bag while most of the room cleared.
– Her face and voice were never far from my mind.
Her delicate face and sexy voice never strayed far from my mind.
-and I committed to running every morning, no matter how hard it was.
and I committed to running every morning, no matter how hard.
-This was ridiculous.
You can see how getting rid of the was/were makes and replacing it with a better verb makes a stronger sentence. Was is one of my tough words. I’ve gone through trying to eliminate them. It’s a lot of work, but hopefully my writing is a little better because of it.