E Prime (short for English Prime)
As I studied General Semantics (another post on this site) I became fascinated with E Prime. There seems to be some controversy about how much E Prime is integrated into General Semantics but I find it an interesting to be an interesting topic. Oops, I just broke the cardinal rule of E Prime. Any form of the verb ‘to be’ is restricted in E Prime. (Oops, I broke it again)
So, how do you write or say anything without using the words ‘is,’ ‘are,’ ‘were,’ or ‘was. ‘
Perhaps I should have said:
There seems to be some controversy about what role E Prime plays in General Semantics…
E Prime restricts the use of any form of the verb ‘to be’.
“D. David Bourland, Jr., who had studied under Alfred Korzybski, devised E-Prime as an addition to Korzybski’s general semantics in the late 1940s. Bourland published the concept in a 1965 essay entitled “A Linguistic Note: Writing in E-Prime” (originally published in General Semantics Bulletin). The essay quickly generated controversy within the general semantics field, partly because practitioners of general semantics[who?] sometimes saw Bourland as attacking the verb ‘to be’ as such, and not just certain usages.”
It would be interesting to know why anyone would choose to write that way.
Kellogg and Bourland describe misuse of the verb to be as creating a “deity mode of speech”, allowing “even the most ignorant to transform their opinions magically into god-like pronouncements on the nature of things”
I searched a number of sources and one of the clearest explanations I have read about why to use E Prime was written by Luciano Passuello. It can be found on his blog – litemind.com https://litemind.com/e-prime/
I especially agree with his observation:
“For me, E-Prime symbolizes more a way of thinking than a mere grammar restriction. Its main goal consists of bringing a higher awareness on how language affects our thoughts — and not of enforcing a strict, blind limitation to language. It has more to do with developing new habits of thinking than with adhering to it rigidly.”
While you are there, don’t miss the opportunity to check out Luciano’s other great insights on his blog.
Another perspective can be found on a blog article written by Dina Sleiman
Dina is an award winning author of novels about passion and grace.
Another interesting look at E Prime can be found in The Atlantic, 1992:
If you dare… you can find a more detailed article by Bourland himself at :