I spent last Monday in Seattle, and was struck by a sense of loneliness. Birds singing for a mate. Lovely, intelligent restaurant servers hoping for a date. And my thoughts turned to sentences that leave out strong verbs. So here I am, writing about nominalizations.
There are many kinds of nominalizations, but this week we discuss the use of nouns that contain within them a buried verb (usually followed by a weak verb). These vague, abstract nouns do the work of a strong verb—which leaves the verb home, alone, and without a date. *Sigh* Worse yet, the resulting sentence is likely to confuse (and annoy) your reader. Consider these examples:
- Beth conducted an investigation of the remediation efforts. [Bad nominalization.]
- Beth investigated the remediation efforts. [Good sentence.]
- An evaluation was undertaken as an investigation of the process by which common law evolves. [Bad nominalization.]
- We evaluated the process by which common law evolves. [Good sentence.]
- Stephen had a discussion with the judge concerning premises liability law. [Bad nominalization.]
- Stephen discussed premises liability law with the judge. [Good sentence.]
- A re-examination of the caselaw led the judge to a reconsideration of the summary judgment motion. [Bad nominalization.]
- After re-examining the caselaw, the judge reconsidered the summary judgment motion. [Good sentence.]
The lesson here? If you want to make your sentences more clear and concise, choose a verb over a nominalization. Oh, and be sure to tip your server so she’s not broke and alone!
That is all for now …