Awkward Anticipatory Construction

This is a special case of failing to use the main sentence elements effectively:

WORDY This is the kind of golfer that is called a hacker. CONCISE This kind of golfer is called a hacker.

In an anticipatory sentence the notional subject—that is, what the sentence is really about—is not the grammatical subject. Instead it is introduced (or "anticipated") by a pronoun (it, this, that, these, those, there) which functions as the grammatical subject. (The is different grammatically but for all practical purposes works the same way.) A verb like is, are, or seems links the notional subject to the pronoun, and an adjectival phrase or clause, modifying the notional subject, tells us what is being predicated about it:

This is the man who witnessed the accident.

There are many property owners who object to new schools.

Those are the people from Chicago.

Anticipatory constructions require more words than comparable direct statements. Sometimes the construction is legitimized by emphasis or idiom; then the extra words are certainly not deadwood. But unless there is such a purpose, a direct statement is preferable. Seems and its close relative appears are especially frequent in awkward anticipatory sentences. Some writers, whether excessively cautious or polite, habitually hedge their bets, preferring a hesitant claim like

It seems that this professor did not prepare his lectures very well.

to the bolder assertion:

This professor did not prepare his lectures very well.

About any anticipatory construction, then, ask yourself whether idiom or emphasis justifies it. Sometimes one or the other will. Changing "It is true that we did not like the idea at first" to "That we did not like the idea at first is true" saves one word but results in a stiff sentence, too formal for many occasions. Similarly, revising "This is the man who witnessed the accident" to "This man witnessed the accident" phasizes the point, hardly an improvement if the writer wants to make a strong statement. But sometimes you will find that no such reason justifies an anticipatory construction. Then it is simply wordy, and you ought to replace it with a more direct statement.

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