Words: Don’t Exceed the Recommended Dosage


Has anybody ever suggested that your writing is wordy?  Learning to avoid, or at least not overdo, certain grammatical structures will automatically make your writing more concise and easier to read. One such structure is nominalization. Nominalization turns a strong verb into a noun and uses the noun with a weak verb when the original verb itself is much better. Here is an example of a highly nominalized sentence:

It is my intention to give a demonstration of how the avoidance of the nominalization of verbs can be achieved.

The following nominalizations occur in the sentence:

it is my intention = I intend

to give a demonstration = to demonstrate

how avoidance can be achieved = how to avoid

Here is a denominalized version of the same sentence:

I intend to demonstrate how to avoid nominalizing verbs.

The nominalized version of the sentence has 11 fewer words.

Here is an even more highly nominalized sentence:


In the absence of a demonstrated ability of the part of the borrower to make repayment, decisions in regard to the making of a loan will rest solely  with the chief loan officer.

Here is a denominalized version:


Only the chief loan officer will decide whether to lend money to a borrower who cannot demonstrate that he or she can repay the loan..


Nominalizations are not always bad, but too much nominalization makes for plodding prose.

Denominalize the following sentences and compare your revisions with mine:


  1. The committee reached a decision to give consideration to Bert’s proposal that an extension of the search be made.
  2. It is our expectation that staff will give management advance information about travel plans.
  3. Colbart will make an effort to bring his coffee breaks to an end closer fifteen minutes allotted for coffee breaks.
  4. Regarding their party, Mort and Jadwiga have come to an agreement not to extend an invitation to Colbart.
  5. The boys gave no explanation of how the breakage of the window had occurred.
  6. It was essential that the young man arrive at an acceptance of his limitations if he was to have any hope of achieving survival in the real world.
  7. There is a need for a re-evaluation of our office procedures
  8. He constructed a definition of the problem that was so broad that it robbed it of any meaning.
  9. Failure on your part to follow the directions may result in the rejection of your application.

Possible revisions

  1. The committee decided to consider Bert’s proposal to extend the search.
  2. We expect staff to advise management of travel plans.
  3. Colbart will try to take his coffee breaks in fifteen minutes.
  4. Mort and Jadwiga have agreed not to invite Colbart to their party.
  5. The boys didn’t explain how the window got broken.
  6. The young man must accept his limitations if he hopes to survive in the real world.
  7. We need to re-evaluate our office procedures.
  8. He defined the problem so broadly that it was meaningless.
  9. If you don’t follow directions, your application may be rejected.




2 thoughts on “Words: Don’t Exceed the Recommended Dosage

  1. A great lesson in word economy. Interestingly enough, this is a type of exercises French to English translators use, since French prefers to use noun constructions while English is verb oriented.


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