When it comes to writing, less is often better

By Dr. Nancy Tuten

Several strategies lead to more succinct writing, and eliminating unhelpful nominalizations is one of them.

Consider this sentence:

  • Last week, the hiring committee conducted an interview with the top three candidates.

“Conducted” is the verb in this sentence, but the meaningful and important action is “interviewed.”

Instead of drawing the reader’s attention to the act of interviewing, the writer has reduced the verb “to interview” to the noun phrase “an interview” (thus the term nominalization).

When we revise the sentence and make “interview” the verb, we not only put the focus on the more critical action, but we make our sentence less wordy:

  • Last week, the hiring committee interviewed the top three candidates.

Here’s another:

  • An award-winning journalist wrote an analysis about adherence to mask-wearing policies in various parts of the country.

The verb is “wrote,” so the focus is on the act of writing instead of on the more important action of analyzing. Changing the verb to “analyzed” strengthens the sentence and makes it less wordy:

  • An award-winning journalist analyzed adherence to mask-wearing policies in various parts of the country.

In a misguided attempt to sound more sophisticated, we often let nominalizations creep into our professional writing: for example, we may write “take into consideration” instead of “consider” or “engaged in discrimination” instead of “discriminated.”

Clarity and concision are important, so instead of “having an argument,” “making an agreement,” or “staging an intervention,” why not simply “argue,” “agree,” or “intervene”?

Learn other strategies for improving sentences at