The Scribe’s Tip (Redux): A Scribe’s tip for the lonely … verb.

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 …

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