Uncover your smothered verbs!
Because you’ll shorten and sharpen your writing, and your readers will get more out of the experience.
So what’s a smothered verb, you ask?
It’s a verb that we changed into a noun, a word that names something, thereby smothering the verb, the action word. Then, because a complete sentence still must have a verb, we have to add one. 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. And the key is uncovering your smothered verbs!
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?
1, Let’s enter into that discussion later.
2. We will provide information to our customers.
3. This will lead to a reduction of paperwork.
4. It is my intention to call the client.
4. 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?
1. Let’s enter into that discussion later. Let’s discuss that later.
2. We will provide information to our customers. We will inform our customers.
3. This will lead to a reduction of paperwork. This will reduce paperwork.
4. It is my intention to call the client. I intend to call the client.
5. The committee came to the conclusion that … The committee concluded …
I welcome your thoughts!