Communication Skills

JS Tip 265: From the Writing Workshops: The Conciseness Series: Free the Smothered Verbs

In every writing workshop, the participants want to write more concisely. This week, we'll begin a series on conciseness.

Writers sometimes turn verbs—dynamic action words—into nouns—static things. The verbs are “smothered.” Find them, free them, and write more concisely.

Look for words that end in —ion—ment, and —nce.

For example:

We will make a decision next Tuesday.

Decision jumps off the screen. It ends in —ion. The noun decision smothers the verb decide. Rewrite the sentence:

We will decide next Tuesday.

Seven words down to five. A twenty-nine percent weight loss. The equivalent of walking into the gym at 210 and walking out at 150.

A second example:

The three groups were in agreement on the policy.

Agreement jumps off the screen with its —ment ending. Inside agreement is the smothered verb agree (or agreed). Rewrite the sentence:

The three groups agreed on the policy.

Nine words down to seven. A twenty-two percent loss. You walk into the gym at 180 and walk out at 140.

And a last example:

Twenty-five people were in attendance at the meeting.

Attendance smothers attend (or attended). Rewrite the sentence:

Twenty-five people attended the meeting.

Nine words down to six. A thirty-three percent loss.

Look for the endings. Find and free the smothered verb. Use the action verb in the rewritten sentence.

Next week, we’ll talk about getting rid of the false subjects.