. . . because the action-as-verb
principle has so many consequences.
You may have been told to use strong verbs.
When you use vague, limp, empty verbs that name only general actions,
your sentences do not tell a vivid story:
I write to call your attention
to my résumé
When you use strong verbs that name specific actions, you write
sentences that tell a vivid story:
I write hoping that I can
persuade you to
give my résumé a second look.
You may have been told to write specifically,
When you turn verbs into nouns and delete the characters, you fill
a sentence with abstract nouns:
There has been an affirmative decision
in regard to termination of the program.
When you use subjects to name characters and verbs to name their
actions, you write sentences that are more specific and concrete:
Congress decided to terminate the program.
You may have been told not to use too many prepositions.
evaluation of the program by us is planned in order to achieve
greater efficiency in the servicing of clients.
When you express actions in verbs instead
of in nominalizations, you eliminate many prepositional phrases:
We plan to evaluate the
program so that we can serve clients better.
You may have been told
to order your ideas logically.
When you turn verbs into nouns and then chain them into phrases,
you can confuse the logical sequence of the actions:
regard to administration of medication despite inability of
irrational patients appearing in Trauma Centers to provide legal
with physicians alone.
When you use subjects to name characters and verbs
to name their actions, you are more likely to write sentences that
make the sequence
of your ideas clear.
When a patient appears in a Trauma Center
and behaves so irrationally that he or she cannot legally consent
treatment, only the physician can decide whether to administer
You may have been told to use
connectors to make logical relationships clearer.
Presentation of more pressing
other agencies resulted in our failure to acquire federal funds,
intensive lobbying efforts.
When you use verbs instead of nouns, you have
to use more logical connectors such as "because," "although," and "if":
Although we lobbied Congress
intensively, we could not acquire federal funds because other
interests presented needs that were more pressing.
You may have been told
to get your sentences off to a fast start.
Your reader will predictably find your subjects too long
if they consist of one or more nominalizations:
voluntary termination which is viewed as a discharge by
the union, and management's
refusal to reinstate the employee after a leave all provide fertile grounds for the assertion of a mental illness claim.
change nominalizations in subjects into verbs, your subject
always be shorter because it will then name one of the characters
in your story, and characters can be named in a word or two:
employee might assert a claim of mental illness if (1) he
or she has been
discharged as a disciplinary action, (2) if he
or she has
been voluntarily terminated, but the union views the termination
a discharge, or
(3) if management refuses to reinstate him or her after a
Finally, you may have been told to avoid long
final step in Lord Morris' preparation to introduce the
precedents in the decision is consideration of the idea of conviction for a crime despite the presence of duress and then immediate
that crime as an unnecessary step which is in fact injurious
for it creates the stigma of the criminal on a potentially
blameless (or at least not criminal) individual.
When you turn nouns back into verbs and find subjects for those
new verbs, it is almost impossible to write a sentence that
will think is too long.
Before Lord Morris introduces the
precedents, he considers a final issue: If a court convicts a defendant who
acted under duress and then immediately pardons him, the
court may have
taken an unnecessary step, a step that may even injure the
defendant, if it stigmatizes him as criminal when he may be
In short, we can find in one feature of style
the source of many other seemingly unrelated problems.
Solve the one problem of style, and you solve most of the others.