Want punchier writing? Don’t bury your verbs
Working in a copywriting agency and dealing with words from a variety of sources every day means you soon spot emerging (or fully emerged) trends in vocabulary and word use.
Nominalisation is one of our pet hates. It’s also one of the prime causes of cluttered, impersonal and bureaucratic writing – which is why, as professional copywriters, we go on about it so much.
Nominalisation means turning a verb into a noun. So instead of using a construction with ‘to terminate’, you use ‘the termination of’; instead of ‘to discuss’, you use ‘discussion’; instead of ‘to negotiate’, you get ‘the negotiation of’, or instead of ‘to implement’, you end up with ‘the implementation of’.
- We are responsible for the provision of advice on a number of projects.
- We had a discussion about the proposals
- We worked with stakeholders on the negotiation of the new contract.
The problem with nominalisation is that is removes the action from the sentence (verbs, after all, are doing words) and replaces it with something static (a noun), which makes for writing that risks being bland, vague and dull.
So forget the nouns, just try and hold on to your verbs:
- We are responsible for advising on a number of projects. Or even better: we advise on a number of projects.
- We discussed the proposals.
- We worked with stakeholders to negotiate a new contract.
It makes for livelier, more engaging and more ‘human’ writing.