Join Judy Steiner-Williams for an in-depth discussion in this video Use strong verbs, part of Writing in Plain English.
- And let the chopping continue to get rid of camouflaged verbs. First, let's quickly review the verb part of speech. My Grammar Fundamentals course delves into verb use. The specific verb we're going to work with is the action verb. Just as its name says, it shows action. Hop, run, develop, consider, continue, and the verb is the strongest word in the sentence. In fact, "Go!" is a complete sentence. It's a command with an understood subject, you. The verb is the only part of speech that can stand alone as a complete sentence.
The impact or strength of your sentence revolves around that strong verb. So how do we camouflage, hide, disguise, or conceal that verb? We turn it into a noun form. Rather than "continue," we write "in continuation of," "in consideration of," rather than "consider." Or, "make an application for," rather than "apply." And why would we want to camouflage it? I'm not sure of that answer. But my guess is that some writers might think "in continuation of" sounds more impressive than "continue." We've already learned that clear, concise, easy-to-read writing is more impressive than how many long multi-syllabled words can be strung together.
Or you could have a page requirement to meet, and camouflaged verbs add more words. Neither of those whys is valid. Notice three things that camouflaged verbs do that impact the readability. Those nouns, continuation and consideration, now have more syllables. Five for each. More words have to be added for the sentence to make sense, so the sentences are longer. And notice that those word are prepositions, in and of.
And third, the sentences sound weaker. So we can continue the meeting, versus so we can have a continuation of the meeting. Listen again. We can continue the meeting, versus we can have a continuation of the meeting. Train your ear to hear as you read aloud the strength of your writing. As you look for camouflaged verbs look for words ending in ion, tion, ing, and these: ment, ant, ent, ence, ance, and ency.
And they often link with another verb such as give, have, make, and take. As with all elements to examine, to make your writing more readable, not all words that end with those letters are bad words, but noting them will help you decide if you could strengthen your writing and make it more readable. Now listen to these examples. Confirmation of the order being received will come from the customer. That's 11 words. Or, the customer will confirm that the order arrived.
EIght words. The advertising team has been given the notification to identify a plan for creating a reduction in advertising costs by 10 percent. That's 22 words. Or, the advertising team needs a reduce-advertising-costs-by-10-percent plan. That's 12 words. And another one. We are in anticipation of a meeting that will be productive. Or, we anticipate a productive meeting. OK, you get the idea.
So look for an listen for camouflaged, hidden verb forms, those originally strong verbs that have been weakened by unnecessarily being changed to nouns. Revise it so the verb becomes that strong word it was intended to be, and I guarantee you that your writing will be more concise, tighter, with the end result of making it more readable and understandable in plain English.
If you can write in plain English, you can save time, save money, and save face in communications. Start watching to learn how to make your writing more "plain": stronger, clearer, and more concise.
Lynda.com is a PMI Registered Education Provider. This course qualifies for professional development units (PDUs). To view the activity and PDU details for this course, click here.
The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.
- Understanding plain English
- Catching mistakes by reading aloud
- Simplifying sentences
- Using strong verbs and meaningful words
- Avoiding corporate jargon
- Finding the right voice and tone
- Editing flow and content
- Writing in a conversational style