Smarten up your text with real verbs

Too many businesses use nouns to describe an action. That makes your message harder to read. Here’s how to fix that.

Speaking in plain English is never dumb. In a previous post, I shared a list of words that can be simplified without dumbing it down. A couple examples were “base” instead of “foundation” and “help” instead of “assist”.

But it’s not just the words you use that can make your text harder to read. It’s also the structure of the words.

The poor structure I see most often is replacing verbs with nouns. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against nouns. Some of my best friends are nouns.

But nouns describe things.

Verbs describe actions.

When we use nouns to describe actions, we twist the sentence structure. It messes with readers’ minds. We use three or four words where one will do. Over the course of a 1,000-word article, that adds up to a much more complex text. And what do we know about complex texts?

The more complex the text, the more effort one needs to read it.

And what do we know about effort?

People are lazy. The more effort it takes, the more likely a person is to say, “Screw this!” And the more likely that some people will misunderstand. Yes, even highly educated people like lawyers, scientists and accountants. We are all lazy.

Change complex nouns back to verbs

Change complex nouns back to verbs

If you want your message to reach people–even lazy people–here are some practical tips:

  • Write “plan”, not “make a plan” or (Oy!) “formulate a plan”.
  • Write “promise”, not “make a promise”.
  • Write “conclude”, or even better, “end”, not “bring to a conclusion” or “reach a conclusion” or “come to a conclusion”.
  • Write “impress”, not “make an impression on”.
  • Write “operate”, not “perform an operation”.
  • Write “predict”, not “make a prediction”.
  • Write “Welcome”, not “I would like to welcome you”, and “welcome”, not “extend a welcome to”.
  • Write “Thank you”, not “I would like to thank you”.
  • Write “respond” or “answer”, not “provide a response” or “submit a response”.
  • Write “when we start operating”, not “at the commencement of operations”.
  • Write “suggest”, not “offer a suggestion”.
  • Write “to develop”, not “for the development of”.
  • Write “to consider”, not “in consideration of”.
  • Write “consider”, not “take under consideration”.
  • Write “approve”, not “give your approval”.
  • Write “investigate (or, better yet, “review”, “study” or “inspect”), not “conduct an investigation” or “launch an investigation”.
  • Write “fix” or “solve”, not “implement a solution” or “find a solution”.
  • Write “evacuate” (or, better yet, “empty”) not “conduct an evacuation”.
  • Write “submit”, not “send in a submission”.
  • Write “choose”, not “make a choice”.
  • Write “to treat”, not “for the treatment of”.
  • Write “treat”, not “give treatment” or “offer treatment”.
  • Write “examine”, not “engage in an examination of” or “undertake an examination of”.
  • Write “direct”, not “give direction”.
  • Write “speak”, not “give a speech” or “make a speech”.
  • Write “review”, not “give a review” or “make a review” or “conduct a review”.
  • Write “declare”, not “issue a declaration”.
  • Write “discover”, not “make a discovery”.
  • Write “assume”, not “make an assumption”.
  • Write “implementing”, not “the implementation of”.
  • Write “to implement”, not “for the implementation of”.
  • Write “to verify”, not “for the verification of”.
  • Write “to diversify”, not “for the diversification of”.
  • Write “to replace”, not “is the replacement for”.
  • Write “change”, not “effect a change in” or “make a change to”, “bring a change” or “bring about a change in.
  • Write “measure”, not “take a measurement”.
  • Write “confuse”, not “cause confusion” or “create confusion”.
  • Write “decide”, not “reach a decision” or “come to a decision” or “make a decision”.
  • Write “determine”, not “make a determination”. Or better yet, just write “decide”.
  • Write “to empower”, not “for the empowerment of”.
  • Write “to benefit”, not “for the benefit of”.
  • Write “manufacturing” or “making”, not “the manufacture of”.
  • Write “contravenes”, not “is in contravention of”.
  • Write “applying”, not “the application of”.
  • Write “apply”, not “submit an application”, “make an application” or “file an application”.
  • Write “apply”, not “submit a request”, “make a request” or “file a request”.
  • Write “apply”, not “submit an inquiry”, “make an inquiry” or “file an inquiry”.
  • Write “apply”, not “submit a proposal” or “make a proposal”.
  • Write “donate”, not “make a contribution” or “make a donation”.
  • Write “oppose”, not “register one’s opposition”.
  • Write “block”, not “implement a blockade of”.
  • Write “propose”, not “make a proposition”.
  • Write “include”, not “ensure the inclusion of”.
  • Write “complain”, not “make a complaint”.
  • Write “consult”, not “engage in consultations”.
  • Write “create jobs”, not “foster job creation”.
  • Write “profit”, not “make a profit”.
  • Write “study”, not “undertake a study”.
  • Write “describe”, not “give a description of”.
  • Write “consider”, not “take under consideration”.
  • Write “to preserve”, not “for the preservation of”.
  • Write “recommend”, not “make a recommendation” or “give a recommendation.
  • Write “agree”, not “enter into an agreement” or “come to an agreement” or “reach an agreement” or “make an agreement”.
  • Write “present”, not “give a presentation”.
  • Write “intend to” or “plan to”, not “have the intention of”.
  • Write “to evaluate”, not “for the evaluation of”.
  • Write “wish”, not “make a wish”.
  • Write “commit”, not “make a commitment”.
  • Write “to”, not “in order to” or “for the purpose of.
  • Write “affect”, not “have an impact on”.
  • Write “tend”, not “have a tendency to”.
  • Write “move”, not “make a movement”.
  • Write “clarify”, not “issue a clarification”.
  • Write “analyze”, not “undertake an analysis”.
  • Write “improve”, not “make improvements”.
  • Write “train”, not “provide training”.
  • Write “grew by”, not “had a growth of”.
  • Write “develop business”, not “support business development” or “foster business development”.
  • Write “renovate”, not “implement the renovation of”.
  • Write “help”, not “provide assistance”.
  • Write “to produce”, not “for the production of”.
  • Write “spend this amount”, not “make expenditures of this amount”.
  • Write “invest”, not “make investments”.
  • Write “to distribute”, not “for the distribution of”.
  • Write “loan”, not “provide repayable funding” or “extend a loan for”.
  • Write “grant”, not “provide non-repayable funding” “offer a grant of”.
  • Write “apologize”, not “offer an apology”.
  • Write “invite”, not “send an invitation” or “extend an invitation”.
  • Write “describe”, not “give a description”.
  • Write “inscribe”, not “make an inscription”.
  • Write “settle”, not “come to a settlement” or “reach a settlement”.
  • Write “substantiate”, not “offer a substantiation of” or “provide a substantiation of”.
  • Write “interrogate”, not “conduct an interrogation of”.
  • Write “audit”, not “undertake an audit of” or “do an audit of”.
  • Write “assess”, not “undertake an assessment of” or “do an assessment of”.
  • Write “analyze”, not “undertake an analysis of” or “do an analysis of”.
  • Write “research”, not “undertake research on” or “do research on”.
  • Write “discuss”, not “undertake discussions on” or “have discussions on”.
  • Write “to store”, not “for the storage of”.

Turning verbs into nouns creates gobbledigook

  • Write “to enhance”, not “for the enhancement of”, and write “enhance”, not “make an enhancement”.
  • Write “to construct” or “to make”, not “for the construction of”.
  • Write “to rehabilitate”, not “for the rehabilitation of”.
  • Write “to demonstrate”, not “for the demonstration of”.
  • Write “to disclose”, not “for the disclosure of”.
  • Write “to keep safe”, not “for the safekeeping of”.
  • Write “illustrate”, not “make an illustration of”.
  • Write “prescribe”, not “make an inscription”.
  • Write “react to”, not “has a reaction to”.
  • Write “guide”, not “offer guidance” or “provide guidance”.
  • Write “prepare”, not “make preparations”.
  • Write “to prepare”, not “in preparation for”.
  • Write “appraise”, not “make an appraisal of”.
  • Write “to perform”, not “for the performance of”.
  • Write “to amend”, not “for the amendment of”.
  • Write “to validate”, not “for the validation of”.
  • Write “to acquit”, not “for the acquittal of”.
  • Write “to continue”, not “for the continuation of”.
  • Write “to terminate” or “to end”, not “for the termination of”.
  • Write “end”, not “bring it to an end”.
  • Write “transform”, not “make a transformation”.
  • Write “to commence” or “to start”, not “for the commencement of”.
  • Write “intervene”, not “make an intervention” or “stage an intervention”.
  • Write “take over”, not “stage a takeover”.
  • Write “to acquire”, not “for the acquisition of”.
  • Write “require”, not “have a requirement”.
  • Write “endorse”, not “give an endorsement” or “make an endorsement” ot “offer an endorsement”.
  • Write “discuss”, not “have a discussion on”.
  • Write “expand”, not “undertake an expansion”.
  • Write “mentor”, not “provide mentorship to”.
  • Write “break down”, not “have a break down”.
  • Write “apologize”, not “make a apology” or “offer and apology”.
  • Write “to participate”, not “for the participation of”.
  • Write “disarm”, not “for the disarmament of”.
  • Write “trade”, not “make a trade” or “arrange a trade”.
  • Write “possess”, not “have possession of”.
  • Write “excavate”, not “undertake an excavation of”.
  • Write “divide”, not “create division among”.
  • Write “grow”, not “undertake growth”.
  • Write “support”, not “offer support” or “provide support” or “give support”.
  • Write “coordinate”, not “provide coordination” or “handle the coordination of”
  • Write “advise”, not “give advice”, “offer advice” or “provide advice”.
  • Write “transfer”, not “make a transfer of”.
  • Write “deposit”, not “make a deposit of”.
  • Write “withdraw”, not “make a withdrawal of”.
  • Write “claim”, not “submit a claim for” or “make a claim for” or “file a claim for”.
  • Write “appeal”, not “submit an appeal for” or “make an appeal for” or “file an appeal for”.
  • Write “complain”, not “submit a complaint” or “make a complaint” or “file a complaint”.
  • Write “object”, not “submit an objection” or “make an objection” or “file a complaint”.
  • Write “register”, not “submit a registration”.
  • Write “appoint”, not “make an appointment” or “confer an appointment’.
  • Write “forgive”, not “offer forgiveness”.
  • Write “announce”, not “make an announcement”.
  • Write “contribute”, not “make a contribution”.
  • Write “stimulate”, not “provide a stimulus”.
  • Write “to stimulate”, not “for the stimulation of”.
  • Write “compromise”, not “come to a compromise” or “reach a compromise”.
  • Write “entertain”, not “provide entertainment” or “offer entertainment”.
  • Write “save”, not “for the salvation of”.
  • Write “to administer”, not “for the administration of”.
  • Write “to produce”, not “for the production of”.
  • Write “to consolidate”, not “for the consolidation of”.
  • Write “reply”, not “send a reply” or “make a reply” or “give a reply”.
  • Write “to resemble”, not “for the resemblance of”.
  • Write “copy”, not “makw a copy of”.
  • Write “perform”, not “give a performance”.
  • Write “follow up”, not “do a follow-up” or “make a follow-up call.
  • Write “study”, not “conduct a study of” or “do a study on”.
  • Write “to integrate”, not “for the integration of”.
  • Write “lecture”, not “deliver a lecture”.
  • Write “lead”, not “show leadership” or “exersize leadership”.
  • Write “amend”, not “make an amendment”.
  • Write “to support”, not “in support of”.
  • Write “approach”, not “take an approach to”.
  • Write “deliver”, not “make a delivery”.
  • Write “to diversify”, not “for the diversification of”.
  • Write “to accelerate”, not “for the accelerationof”.
  • Write “to reorganize”, not “for the reorganization of”.
  • Write “to finance”, not “for the financing of”.
  • Write “challenge”, not “pose a challenge” or “issue a challenge” or “present a challenge” or “throw out a challenge”.
  • Write “clarify”, not “issue a clarification” or “make a clarification”.
  • Write “interfere”, not “run interference”.
  • Write “to celebrate”, not “in celebration of”.
  • Write “describe”, not “give a description of”.
  • Write “summarize”, not “give a summary of”.
  • Write “outline”, not “give an outline of”.
  • Write “introduce”, not “give an introduction to” or “make an introduction”.
  • Write “enter”, not “make an entrance” or “gain entry”.
  • Write “exit”, not “make an exit”.
  • Write “appear”, not “make an appearance”.
  • Write “attempt”, or even better, “try”, not “make an attempt” or “make an effort” or “give it a try”.
  • Write “turn”, not “make a turn”.
  • Write “push”, not “give it a push”.
  • Write “pull”, not “give it a pull”.
  • Write “ride”, not “go for a ride in”.
  • Write “drive”, not “take for a drive”.
  • Write “evade”, not “take evasive action” or “make an evasive maneuver.
  • Write “act”, not “take action”.
  • Write “swim”, not “go for a swim”.
  • Write “run”, not “go for a run”.
  • Write “walk”, not “go for a walk”.
  • Write “remind”, not “issue a reminder”.
  • Write “recall”, not “issue a recall on”.
  • Write “to retreive”, not “for the retreival of”.
  • Write “permit”, not “give permission”.
  • Write “instruct”, not “give instructions”.
  • Write “check the system”, not “run system checks”.
  • Write “operate”, not “run operations”.
  • Write “demand”, not “make a demand for” or “issue a demand for”.
  • Write “intend”, not “have the intention of”.
  • Write “award”, not “bestow an award on” or “give an award to”.
  • Write “guess”, not “make a guess” or “take a guess” or “venture a guess”.
  • Write “fight”, not “have a fight”.
  • Write “battle”, not “meet in battle” (That’s so Lord of the Rings!).
  • Write “show off”, not “make a show of”.
  • Write “contact”, not “make contact with”.
  • Write “search”, not “make a search” or “conduct a search”.
  • Write “exceed”, not “is in excess of”.
  • Write “audit”, not “conduct an audit”.
  • Write “protect”, not “give protection to”.
  • Write “to protect”, not “for the protection of”.
  • Write “nominate”, not “make a nomination” or “put forward a nomination”.
  • Write “criticize”, not “give criticism”.
  • Write “design”, not “create a design for” or “make a design for” or “undertake the design of” “make a design of”.
  • Write “transfer technology”, not “provide technology transfer”.
  • Write “call”, not “make a call to”.
  • Write “inquire”, not “make an inquiry”.
  • Write “land”, not “make a landing”.
  • Write “prompt”, not “give a prompt”.
  • Write “nudge”, not “give a nudge”.
  • Write “warn”, not “give a warning” or “issue a warning” or “provide a warning”.
  • Write “respond”, not “give a response” or “issue a response” or “provide a response”.
  • Write “expect”, not “have expectations of”.
  • Write “journey”, not “go on a journey”. “Travel” is better, of course.
  • Write “shift”, not “make a shift”.

I love verbs

  • Write “smile”, not “make a smile” or “give a smile”.
  • Write “smirk”, not “make a smirk” or “give a smirk”.
  • Write “draw”, not “make a drawing”.
  • Write “frown”, not “make a frown” or give a frown”.
  • Write “paint”, not “make a painting”.
  • Write “fear”, not “have a fear of”.
  • Write “threaten”, not “make a threat” or “issue a threat”.
  • Write “vote”, not “cast a vote”.
  • Write “to reduce”, not “for the reduction of”. And “reduce” not “make a reduction in”.
  • Write “use”, not “make use of”.
  • Write “dream”, not “have a dream”…although, Martin Luther King did well with “have a dream”. There’s an exception to every rule.
  • Write “wish”, not “make a wish”.
  • Write “to enroll”, not “for the enrollment of”.
  • Write “to sanitize”, not “for the sanitation of”.
  • Write “trust”, not “give trust”.
  • Write “feel”, not “have feelings of”.
  • Write “exist”, not “is in existence”.
  • Write “propagate”, not “for the propagation of”.
  • Write “violate”, not “make a violation”.
  • Write “find”, not “make a find”.
  • Write “expect”, not “have expectations of”.
  • Write “add”, not “make additions”.
  • Write “to educate”, not “for the education of”.
  • Write “to fulfill”, not “for the fulfillment of”.
  • Write “calculate”, not “make a calculation of”.
  • Write “shake it”, not “give it a shake”.
  • Write “descend”, not “make a descent”.
  • Write “vibrate”, not “make vibrations”.
  • Write “to monitor”, not “for the monitoring of”.
  • Write “sigh”, not “give a sigh”.
  • Write “bite”, not “take a bite”.
  • Write “bathe”, not “take a bath”.
  • Write “drink”, not “take a drink”.
  • Write “breathe”, not “take a breath”.
  • Write “shower”, not “take a shower”.
  • Write “moan”, not “give a moan”.
  • Write “pass on”, not “give a pass on” or “take a pass on”.
  • Write “ski”, not “go skiing”.
  • Write “skate”, not “go skating”.
  • Write “cycle”, not “go cycling”.
  • Write “tobogon”, not “go tobogonning”.
  • Write “insinuate”, not “make an insinuation”.
  • Write “accuse”, not “make an accusation”.
  • Write “update”, not “make an update to”.
  • Write “revise”, not “make a revision to”.
  • Write “fortify”, not “build fortifications to”.
  • Write “circulate”, not “put in circulation”.
  • Write “chair”, not “act as chair”.
  • Write “embellish”, not “make an embellishment to”.
  • Write “proclaim”, not “issue a proclamation on”.
  • Write “facilitate”, not “provide facilitation for”.
  • Write “reach out”, not “undertake outreach”.
  • Write “to screen”, not “for the screening of”.
  • Write “evaluate”, not “make an evaluation of”.
  • Write “rehearse”, not “do a rehearsal” or “have a rehearsal”.
  • Write “purchase”, or even better “buy”, not “make a purchase of”.
  • Write “to procure”, not “for the procurement of”. In most cases, what one really means is “to buy”.
  • Write “congratulate”, not “offer congratulations to”.
  • Write “restrict”, not “impose restrictions on “.
  • Write “tax”, not “levy a tax on” or “impose a tax on”.
  • Write “argue”, not “get into an argument with”.
  • Write “quote”, not “make a quote”, “give a quote” or “offer a quote”.
  • Write “shoot”, not “take a shot at”.
  • Write “to mobilize”, not “for the mobilization of”.
  • Write “to encourage”, not “for the encouragement of”.
  • Write “state”, not “issue a statement on”.
  • Write “extrapolate”, not “make an extrapolation on”.
  • Write “assume”, not “make an assumption on”.
  • Write “omit”, not “make an omission of”.
  • Write “to retain”, not “for the retention of”.
  • Write “to release”, not “for the release of”.
  • Write “to adjourn”, not “for the adjournment of”.
  • Write “correspond”, not “undertake correspondence”.
  • Write “coach”, not “provide coaching services” or “offer coaching services”.
  • Write “convict”, not “issue a conviction to”.
  • Write “to renew”, not “for the renewal of”.
  • Write “deliver”, not “make a delivery”.
  • Write “to attend”, not “for their attendance at”.
  • Write “simplify”, not “make a simplification” (seriously?).
  • Write “ship”, not “make a shipment” or “send a shipment”.
  • Write “accomplish”, not “make an accomplishment of”.
  • Write “imply”, not “make an implication of”.
  • Write “illustrate”, not “make an illustration of”.
  • Write “accommodate”, not “make an accommodation for”.
  • Write “add”, not “make an addition”.
  • Write “bow”, not “take a bow”.
  • Write “taste”, not “have a taste”.
  • Write “contact”, not “get in contact with”.
  • Write “connect”, not “get connected with”.

367 verbs masquerading as nouns

  • Write “fall”, not “take a fall”.
  • Write “dine”, not “have dinner”.
  • Write “dress”, not “get dressed”.
  • Write “reserve”, not “make a reservation for”.
  • Write “price”, not “set a price on” or “establish a price for”.
  • Write “solicit”, not “make a solicitation”.
  • Write “order”, not “make an order” or “place an order”.
  • Write “loan” or “lend”, not “make a loan”, “give a loan”, “arrange a loan” or “provide a loan”.
  • Write “improvise”, not “make improvisations”.
  • Write “attack”, not “make an attack” or “launch an attack”.
  • Write “invade”, not “make an invasion” or “launch an invasion”.
  • Write “retreat”, not “make a retreat”.
  • Write “to redeem”, not “for the redemption of”.
  • Write “to participate in”, not “for the participation in”.
  • Write “to master”, not “for the mastery of”, and write “master” not “have mastery of”.
  • Write “to understand”, not “for the understanding of”.
  • Write “to perceive”, not “for the perception of”.
  • Write “to control”, not “for the control of”.
  • Write “control”, not “have control of”.
  • Write “to know”, not “for the knowledge of”.
  • Write “to create”, not “for the creation of”.
  • Write “access”, not “get access to”, “have access” or “gain access to”.
  • Write “permit” (or “allow” or “let”), not “give permission to”.
  • Write “modify”, not “make a modification to”.
  • Write “push”, not “give a push to”.
  • Write “escape”, not “make an escape”.
  • Write “alter”, not “make an alteration to”.
  • Write “dent”, not “make a dent in”.
  • Write “impact”, not “make an impact in”.
  • Write “designate”, not “make a designation of”.
  • Write “move”, not “make a movement”.
  • Write “leap”, not “make a leap”.
  • Write “jump”, not “make a jump”.
  • Write “revive”, not “undergo a revival”.
  • Write “interpret”, not “make an interpretation” or “offer an interpretation”.
  • Write “certify”, not “give a certification” or “bestow a certification”.
  • Write “arrive”, not “make an arrival”.
  • Write “depart” or “leave”, not “make a departure”.
  • Write “appear”, not “make an appearance”.
  • Write “project”, not “make a projection of”.
  • Write “succeed at”, not “have success with”.
  • Write “sit”, not “take a seat”.
  • Write “nap”, not “take a nap”.

Oh, and here’s a good one I read recently: “the occurrence of an incident”. It’s not a noun replacing a verb. It’s a whole dictionary replacing a noun action. An incident is an occurrence. It could have been written “an incident of an occurrence”. But that would be just as bad, of course.

So “the occurrence of an incident” can be replaced by just “an incident” or “something happened”.

Ah, that feels better.

About David Leonhardt

is President of The Happy Guy Marketing, a published author, a "Distinguished Toastmaster", a former consumer advocate, a social media addict and experienced with media relations and government reports.

Read more about David Leonhardt



Comments

  1. Nice post David! What a great list of complex nouns that we can change back to verbs in order for our message to reach people, even lazy people. I will start using your tips starting today. I am sure, this will help me a lot. Thank you for sharing.

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