Writing Tip: Want a Magic Trick to Cut Down on Wordiness?

paul barton communications writing

By Barbara McNichol
Guest Blogger

Ever wonder how to make your sentences less verbose and more direct?

Here’s a trick that works like magic: Change long noun phrases to short verbs.

Consider the differences in these three examples from a nonfiction manuscript I edited:

  • “They remain in contradiction with themselves” vs. “They contradict themselves.”
  • “He made an acknowledgment of her success” vs. “He acknowledged her success.”
  • “We get closer to the implementation of leadership practices” vs. “We get closer to implementing leadership practices.”

Pay attention to these examples. They show how you can increase readability by turning a long-winded “heavy” phrase into an active “lively” verb. What clues do you look for? Nouns ending in “ion” and “ment.”

Whenever you edit your own work, use this “magic” trick often. What a difference this one technique can make! Try it for yourself.

Action: Identify “ion” and “ment” words in your writing, then rewrite them using a lively verb.


Phoenix Public Speaking Barbara McNicholOn a crusade to boost the quality of business writing, Barbara McNichol conducts Writing Essentials WordShops and edits nonfiction books. Over the past 24 years, she has placed more than 350 books on her editor’s “trophy shelf.” She is the author of Word Trippers: Your Ultimate Source for Choosing the Right Word When It Really Matters.

On an ongoing basis, you’ll gain valuable writing tips by requesting her free monthly ezine Add Power to Your Pen and subscribing to her Word Trippers Tips program (details at www.WordTrippers.com).

Feel free to contact Barbara at 520-615-7910 or editor@BarbaraMcNichol.com and connect on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


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