A complete sentence is one with a subject and a predicate (which needs a verb, right)? That’s something we learned in grammar school, although we may not remember it exactly.
Something else we learned back then: Nouns name things, and verbs create action or a state of being.
But many of us writers have gotten into the habit of changing perfectly good verbs into nouns by adding a few letters, smothering the original verb, and then adding another verb for grammatical correctness. And although it’s not wrong to smother a verb, the result is a longer and weaker sentence.
Recently I read an LI profile that had these words: “… has to be in possession of …” and immediately realized the writer added a couple of unneeded words by turning the original verb into a noun.
Can you see it? Possession is a noun, but there’s a verb hiding in plain sight: possess. So the original sentence could have been a little shorter with more emphasis by writing this: “…has to possess …”
Grammatically, it’s fine either way, but for many readers, shorter and stronger sentences are easier to understand.
So how can you spot a smothered verb?
They hide in nouns ending in ion, sion, tion, able, ance, or ment.
Find your own smothered verbs by doing a search or find for words ending in these letters until you can spot them on your own.
Here’s a little quiz to see if you can spot the smothered verbs – what would you use instead?
Let’s enter into that discussion later.
We will provide information to our customers.
This will lead to a reduction of paperwork.
It is my intention to call the client.
The committee came to the conclusion that …
Is this concept familiar to you? I had never known about it before learning about it from another excellent writer, which is why I love the village concept. I don’t have to know everything; I have friends and colleagues who regularly keep me updated on ways to do just about anything.
Oh, the answers?
Let’s enter into that discussion later. Let’s discuss that later.
We will provide information to our customers. We will inform our customers.
This will lead to a reduction of paperwork. This will reduce paperwork.
It is my intention to call the client. I intend to call the client.
The committee came to the conclusion that … The committee concluded …
I welcome your thoughts!