The key to better writing is often good editing. Good editors have little tricks. These tricks require them to have a knowledge of the common mistakes that can weaken a person’s writing. They get into the habit of hunting down these errors and systematically fixing them.

One common thing to look out for is verb-style writing. We can make our writing more vivid, direct, and clear by using strong verbs rather than nouns. Many writers, though, develop a habit of relying too much on nouns that contain hidden verbs. Often, they feel that the noun habit makes their work seem more formal and serious.

For example, pay is a perfectly good verb. It’s short, strong, and easily understood. Nevertheless, many writers use the more wordy, make a payment. Payment is a hidden verb and a hidden trap that can weaken your writing if you aren’t careful.

A good editor would make the following change in this sentence:

  • BEFORE:  You must make your payment on the first day of each month.
  • AFTER:  You must pay on the first day of each month.

Another example would be the following:

  • BEFORE: You should submit your complaints in writing to the area manager.
  • AFTER:  You should complain in writing to the area manager.

The following table lists verbs that are commonly hidden in nouns and waiting to come out.

Give this a try. In almost every case, you can make your writing shorter, snappier, and easier to understand with this simple trick.

HIDDEN VERB CONSIDER INSTEAD
Offer some advice Advise
Come to an agreement Agree
Perform an analysis Analyze
Make an appeal Appeal
Perform an assessment Assess
Make a purchase Purchase (or buy)
Do a calculation Calculate
Make a comment Comment
Register a complaint Complain
Come to a conclusion Conclude
Create a connection Connect
Make a contribution Contribute
Make a decision Decide
Complete delivery Deliver
Have a discussion Discuss
Derive enjoyment from Enjoy
Conduct (or hold) an enquiry Enquire
Provide an estimate Estimate
Perform an examination Examine
Have an expectation Expect
Conduct an investigation Investigate
Make an observation Observe
Make a payment Pay
Do a performance Perform
Have a reaction React
Cause a reduction Reduce
Put in a request Request (or ask)
Have a requirement Require
Have a resemblance Resemble (or look like)
Carry out a review Review
Enjoy success Succeed
Make a suggestion Suggest
Harbor a suspicion Suspect
Conduct a visit Visit

 

 

 

 

 

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