Posted by: wordsmithsuk | January 21, 2013

Revealing hidden verbs

A common problem in English is to use nouns instead of verbs in business writing. Sentences are much longer and harder to understand when actions Jigsaw iStock_000000136707are described with a noun and a verb instead of just a verb.

For example:

  • Give advice instead of advise.
  • Hold a discussion instead of discuss.
  • Give attention to instead of attend to.

Here are some examples of sentences with hidden verbs, and how they would look if they were rewritten with just verbs:

Not Instead
They took the decision to spend approximately £350,000. They decided to spend approximately £350,000.
Copies of this letter have been sent by post to Mr Edwards. I posted copies of this letter to Mr Edwards.
I have been in contact with the company I contacted the company
The association has expressed an intention that the accommodation will be improved. The association intends to improve the accommodation.
We have promised to effect improvements in the security system. We have promised to improve the security system.
We carried out a review of the project last week. We reviewed the project last week.
He carried out an appraisal of her work. He appraised her work.
The manager conducted an analysis of clients’ complaints. The manager analysed clients’ complaints.

There are a number of reasons why it’s a good idea to avoid such ‘hidden verbs:

  • They make the text sound dull, pompous and uninteresting
  • They conceal the action and make it seem as if nothing is happening in the sentence
  • Sentences with hidden verbs are much longer than those with pure verbs – so it takes longer to read them.

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