Keep your doing words doing

There are some words that just drag your writing down. They’re heavy and dull, and they have a nasty habit of lugging even more weight in with them. They make the person reading your writing work way too hard to understand your meaning. And, the fact is, they might not even bother. 

The good news is that once you get used to recognising such words, you will be able to change them and quickly make your writing more clear, concise and direct.

The doing word behind the thing

What we’re talking about are nouns (things) that are sneakily hiding verbs (doing or being words, actions). For example, the noun ‘discussion’ hides the verb ‘(to) discuss’. You can recognise a noun by the fact you put ‘the’, ‘a’ or ‘an’ in front of it (‘a discussion’, for instance).

These are called ‘nominalisations’. In fact, ‘nominalisation’ is itself a nominalisation: ‘to nominalise’ is to turn a verb or adjective into a noun. But don’t worry too much about that.

Watch the video to see what we mean:

These nouns that hide verbs often end in -tion or -sion. That’s why we say you should shun the -tions. It’s not the only ending (others include -ment, -age, -al and -ence). But it’s definitely something to look out for in your writing – especially if the -tion/-sion words start to pile up.

Shun the -tions

When you spot them, try to work out what verbs are hiding behind them. Then see if you can change your sentences to use the equivalent verbs instead. (For example, change ‘We need a discussion’ to ‘We need to discuss’.) As you’ve seen, this will probably mean you can cut out other words too.

Transform your writing in small, easy steps

This video is an extract from Week 12 of our new online-learning programme, Emphasis 360, which is designed to transform your writing step by step, in practical, manageable, bite-sized lessons.

You can access a full lesson from the course free of charge here.

The definitive guide to transforming the writing of individuals and teams