Revive a Verb for Conciseness

By Mark Nichol

One simple method for making a more compact, efficient sentence is to clear the way for the primary verb to do its job. In each of the examples below, other parts of speech obstruct a verb. Discussion after each sentence explains the problem, and a revision offers a solution.

1. As much as we love kids and pets, they are unpredictable and can cause a driver to be distracted.

In this sentence, cause is positioned as the key verb, but the action at the core of the statement is distraction, so tighten the second half of the main clause by replacing cause with distract and omitting the weak phrase “to be distracted,” thereby reducing the sentence by three words: “As much as we love kids and pets, they are unpredictable and can distract a driver.”

2. Funds targeted toward treatment and prevention of these behaviors saw an increase of $2.55 billion to $3.6 billion.

Here, a buried verb is unearthed to produce a more concise sentence—saw is deleted, and the noun increase is converted to a verb, reducing the tired four-word phrase “saw an increase of” to a single active verb: “Funds targeted toward treatment and prevention of these behaviors increased $2.55 billion to $3.6 billion.”

3. However, there is additional language that has suggested alternative ways to avoid the extrajudicial ban on personal data transfer.

In this case, omit the weak expletive “there is” and the associated conjunction that so that suggested stands out more prominently as the first verb in the sentence, cutting the word count by three words: “However, additional language has suggested alternative ways to avoid the extrajudicial ban on personal data transfer.”


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