E-Prime Communication

Alfred KSCorzybski, the founder of the discipline of general semantics, thought that the verb "to be" could lead to confused thought, confused action, and even fascism. Because so much of fascism consists of vilification of the memy, and because so much of vilification of the enemy consists of calling hem subhuman, identifying them with the forces of evil, and so on, fascists might find it hard to write propaganda without "to be.

Korzybski considered the use of "to be" as an aipciliary verb ("I am going next door") fairly innocuous, as well as several other uses. He primarily objectec 0 two uses of the verb "to be," which he called identity and predication.

example of identity:


That is a spaceship!" (Implication: call out the National Guard! Get the White House on Line 1!)

E-Prime alternative

"That certainly looks like a spaceship to me." (Implication: it merits fur¬ ther investigation. What does it look Hke to you.?)

An example of predication:


"Fred is disgusting." (Imphcation: ostracize him!)

E-Prime alternative

"I don't like Fred; I find him disgusting." (Implication: but maybe you like him. What do you like about him? Let's talk.)


People who speak E-Prime often choose to eliminate all forms of "to be rather than just the so-called is of identity and is of predication. D. David Bourland, Jr. (inventor of E-Prime) and E.W. Kellogg III liken this to the sitnation faced by someone trying to quit smoking: although the health bene¬ fits of cutting down from two packs of cigarettes a day to just two cigarettes a day might amount to almost as much as quitting entirely, almost no one can do it. Similarly, manny people who choose to speak E-Prime ehminate "to be" cold turkey because they find it easier than analyzing each use of "to be" to see whether it involves identity or predication.2

As a further exercise, you can try to catch writers in the use of particularly unjustified uses of "to be"; it will alert you to other people's propagandistic appeals and hone your awareness of your own use of the Verb That Dare Not Speak Its Name.


Eliminate "to be" verbs and further clarify your statements. A good cognitive tool for detecting propaganda.

Folksonomies: rhetoric cognitive toolkit verbal acuity propaganda

/society/crime/property crime/larceny (0.689571)
/health and fitness/alternative medicine (0.577274)
/art and entertainment/dance (0.408248)

E-Prime Communication Eliminate (0.911310 (negative:-0.596792)), E-Prime alternative (0.827247 (positive:0.310131)), good cognitive tool (0.570382 (negative:-0.482808)), predication (0.532342 (negative:-0.229853)), D. David Bourland (0.503383 (neutral:0.000000)), fur¬ ther investigation (0.492043 (negative:-0.274575)), health bene¬ fits (0.482987 (negative:-0.618878)), particularly unjustified uses (0.478095 (negative:-0.371878)), aipciliary verb (0.389313 (neutral:0.000000)), hem subhuman (0.342181 (negative:-0.763864)), general semantics (0.311015 (negative:-0.227875)), Alfred KSCorzybski (0.308316 (neutral:0.000000)), Dare Not Speak (0.283056 (negative:-0.331885)), propagandistic appeals (0.280736 (negative:-0.331885)), White House (0.277270 (neutral:0.000000)), National Guard (0.275339 (neutral:0.000000)), E.W. Kellogg (0.272345 (negative:-0.498600)), Implication (0.263718 (negative:-0.386956)), manny people (0.261771 (neutral:0.000000)), cold turkey (0.256647 (negative:-0.200606)), identity (0.239378 (negative:-0.125839))

Fred:Person (0.771090 (negative:-0.454029)), Korzybski:Person (0.642336 (neutral:0.000000)), National Guard:Organization (0.602257 (neutral:0.000000)), Alfred KSCorzybski:Person (0.536704 (neutral:0.000000)), founder:JobTitle (0.490359 (negative:-0.227875)), E.W. Kellogg III:Person (0.468352 (negative:-0.498600)), D. David Bourland:Person (0.466822 (neutral:0.000000)), White House:Facility (0.464583 (neutral:0.000000)), manny:Person (0.464165 (neutral:0.000000)), Hke:Person (0.435030 (positive:0.367901)), Jr.:Person (0.350087 (neutral:0.000000))

Alfred Korzybski (0.934179): dbpedia | freebase | yago
General semantics (0.928145): dbpedia | freebase
Semantics (0.918013): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Copula (0.865950): dbpedia | freebase
E-Prime (0.843705): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Nazism (0.764803): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
White House (0.702493): website | dbpedia | freebase | opencyc | yago
Cognition (0.640747): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc

 Mind Performance Hacks
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Hale-Evans, Ron (2006-02-06), Mind Performance Hacks, O'Reilly Media, Inc., Retrieved on 2013-12-29
  • Source Material [books.google.com]
  • Folksonomies: self-help


    19 DEC 2013

     The Cognitive Toolbox

    Memes that would make good index cards for a box of important cognitive ideas.