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Writers and speakers should choose every word carefully to say what they mean to say in as few words as possible. This does not mean eliminating important details. This means creating clear and direct sentences. One strategy for creating clear and direct sentences is to pay more attention to verbs that are used.
1) limit passive voice--clauses written in passive voice are not as direct as clauses written in active voice because in passive voice, the subject of the clause does not perform the action of the clause.
The tire was fixed by Lisa. (passive)
Lisa fixed the tire. (active)
Research on the recent recession was done by Professor Row's students. (passive)
Professor Row's students researched the recent recession. (active)
Many mistakes were made by the team. (passive)
The team made many mistakes. (active)
In addition to turning passive voice clauses into active voice clauses, writers and speakers can improve their sentences by
turning passive voice clauses into past participial phrases.
Lensa was ejected from the game, so she sat on the sidelines.
Ejected from the game, Lensa sat on the sidelines.
Penicillin was invented in the early twentieth century. It has saved millions of lives.
Invented in the early twentieth century, penicillin has saved millions of lives.
2) limit nominalizations--clauses with nominalizations often include vague verbs rather than precise verbs.
The dance company did a performance of The Nutcracker. (did is vague)
The dance company performed The Nutcracker. (performed is precise)
Inez found a solution to the problem. (found is vague)
Inez solved the problem. (solved is precise)
My daughter likes to make drawings of rainbows. (make is vague)
My daughter likes to draw rainbows. (draw is precise)
3) limit linking verbs--clauses with linking verbs are naturally weak because they contain no action. If possible, writers and speakers should try to attach information from these clauses to an adjacent clause or revise the clause so it contains an action.
Giles is the president of the company. He will decide whom to hire.
As president of the company, Giles will decide whom to hire.
Giles, the president of the company, will decide whom to hire.
Fletcher bought a bicycle that is blue.
Fletcher bought a blue bicycle.
Abdi's plan is to stop at the grocery store on the way home from work.
Abdi plans to stop at the grocery store on the way home from work.
Mandy was good in the last play, so she hopes to get a major role in this play.
Mandy performed well in the last play, so she hopes to get a major role in this play.
Having performed well in the last play, Mandy hopes to get a major role in this play.
Although the second and third sentences are not shorter than the first sentence, the second and third sentences are stronger because they contain action verbs.
Abraham was driving to work when he got a flat tire.
Driving to work, Abraham got a flat tire.
I was watching the game last night when I saw my neighbor in the stands.
Watching the game last night, I saw my neighbor in the stands.
Shukri hopes that she will graduate next spring.
Shukri hopes to graduate next spring.
My nephew dreams that he will become a professional boxer.
My nephew dreams of becoming a professional boxer.