Avoid hidden verbs
Use the strongest, most direct form of the verb possible.
Verbs are the fuel of writing. Verbs give your sentences power and direction. They enliven your writing and make it more interesting. Too often, we hide verbs by turning them into nouns, making them less effective and using more words than we need. Hidden verbs are a particular problem in government writing.
What are hidden verbs?
A hidden verb is a verb converted into a noun. It often needs an extra verb to make sense. So we write, "Please make an application for a personal loan" rather than "Please apply for a personal loan."
Hidden verbs come in two forms. Some have endings such as -ment, -tion, -sion, and -ance or link with verbs such as achieve, effect, give, have, make, reach, and take. Often, you will find a hidden verb between the words "the" and "of."
|To trace the missing payment, we need to carry out a review of the Agency’s accounts so we can gain an understanding of the reason the error occurred.||To trace the missing payment, we need to review the Agency's accounts so we understand the reason the error occurred.|
|If you cannot make the payment of the $100 fee, you must make an application in writing before you file your tax return.||If you cannot pay the $100 fee, you must apply in writing before you file your tax return.|
|This means we must undertake the calculation of new figures for the congressional hearing.||This means we must calculate new figures for the congressional hearing.|
|The production of accurate statistics is important for the committee in the assessment of our homelessness policy.||Producing accurate statistics is important to the committee in assessing our policy on homelessness.|
- Charrow, Veda R., Erhardt, Myra K. and Charrow, Robert P. Clear & Effective Legal Writing, 4th edition, 2007, Aspen Publishers, New York, NY, pp. 176-178.
- Garner, Bryan A., Legal Writing in Plain English, 2001, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, p. 38 (14.)
- Kimble, Joseph, Lifting the Fog of Legalese, 2006, Carolina Academic Press, Durham, NC., p. 71 (D.4).
- Securities and Exchange Commission, Plain English Handbook, 1998, Securities and Exchange Commission, Washington, DC., p. 21.
- Wright, Nick, at www.plainlanguage.gov/howto/wordsuggestions/hiddenverbs.cfm.