Want a simple way to make your writing more vigorous, readable, and actionable?
Get rid of all those nouns with verbs buried inside them. Just googling “smothered verbs” will give you lots of examples of how and why this writing habit gets in the way of sturdy English prose. You can easily break this habit by turning nouns like discussion, information, reduction, and conclusion into action verbs — discuss, inform, reduce, and conclude. Your prose will get sharper. Become more readable. Less likely to induce boredom, eye rolls, and yeah whatever.
And take notice of that suffix in all these nouns — -ion. If you skim your copy and find them, you’re probably smothering verbs. Bureaucracies — whether public or private — are fond of smothered verbs because active verbs force writers to clarify who’s doing what to whom. Saying something like “there will be a reduction in our salesforce” sounds less threatening than “we will be reducing our salesforce.” People get fired. Nobody seems to be doing the firing.
Smothered verbs invariably invite passive verb constructions, where stuff happens seemingly by magic, the magic being that it absolves doers of doing anything. It’s the sort of opacity week-kneed lawyers, administrators, politicians, and bureaucrats strive for. Stop giving them quarter. Free a verb today!
©2021 John Hofmeister. All rights reserved.
When I'm not writing for clients, I write about things that interest me. Quite of bit of satire, a genre that has become increasingly difficult to work in since reality has become such a farce.