The “Real” Subject
The presence of the sandwich gladdened the heart of the student.
In the sentence above, the literal subject is “presence”, which is a weak subject. The sandwich is the strong subject, so a stronger sentence would be: “The sandwich gladdened the heart of the student.” The weak subject in the first example hides the strong subject, making the sentence ambiguous.
Hiding the real subject in a sentence may result from trying to increase sentence length, take the reader’s focus off of the real information at hand (either consciously or unconsciously), or make the sentence fancier.
Another way that the focus is taken off the real subject is by the improper use of expletives. Expletives are words that have no real meaning but serve a grammatical function in a sentence. A few common expletives are:” it is”, “there is”, and “there are.”
Below is an example of a weaker sentence using expletives and a stronger one with the expletives removed:
Weak: There are many options for us to choose from.
Strong: We have many options to choose from.
To avoid using weak subjects and expletives, you can search your document for expletives and anything preceding the word “of”, which often indicates you are using a weak subject.
In summary, the real subject should stand out in every sentence.