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Tightening Verb Phrases for Making an Engine That Purrs
Imagine the English language as a car that can keep its body and
performance pristine if driven and maintained correctly.
Think of nouns as the wheels that keep it rolling; adjectives as the chassis riding the wheels; adverbs as the paint job (some say the less flashy the better); and all other parts of speech (prepositions, conjunctions, etc.) as the vehicle's other components (e.g., windows, trunk, mirrors, hood).
That leaves us with verbs, which form both the engine and the steering wheel driving our language. Without them, our language, like a car, would sit still and take us nowhere.
For this reason, verbs need tune-ups for optimal function. You can achieve this by tightening verb phrases.
Opportunities to do so appear throughout our writing:
Substitute a single word for “is” phrases that can be instantly shortened Instead of writing “he is in violation of,” go with “he
violates.” Rather than express “the petition is a
representation of the community’s wishes,” state “the
Pare verb-object phrases to the core verb
Have you ever written that you “made the decision”? “I
decided” is leaner and so will use less gas in taking your sentence
further more quickly. Perhaps you’ve expressed in an e-mail that
“the meeting came to a close” and “all who attended took
the matter into consideration.” If so, next time you can adjust your
linguistic belt a notch and write “the meeting ended” and
“all who attended considered the matter.”
Delete redundant modifiers
We don’t need to write “hoist up” and “plunge
down” when a simple “hoist” and “plunge” will
do. Likewise, why use page space to say we “mix together”
ingredients and “merge together” documents? The careful writer
confesses the two words just don’t belong together. (These verb phrases also can be defined as tautologies; to learn more about this topic, review our recent article (Striking the Surplus from Tautologies.)
Choose the right verb to shorten an idea
Did the book “give the people hope”? You could write that it
“inspired” them and buy room you might need elsewhere on your
page. Someone sharing a passionate opinion might say a statement
“flies in the face of” the facts. He could also state that it
“counters,” “contradicts,” “refutes” or
“opposes” them and lessen the risk of flying spittle.
Use these techniques as your tools for your tune-ups. If you apply them
often, you’ll find out just how far and fast your writing can go.
Because of the e-newsletter’s large readership, please submit your comments or questions regarding today's (or any past) article through GrammarBook.com’s Grammar Blog
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More Good News for Quiz Subscribers
We are pleased to announce that we have added even more quizzes to help you challenge yourself, your students, and your staff. We added quizzes to existing categories and created some new categories such as “Vocabulary,” “Spelling,” “Confusing Verbs,” “Subjunctive Mood,” “Comprise,” and “Sit vs. Set vs. Sat.”
We reviewed and strengthened every quiz on our website to ensure consistency with the rules and guidelines contained in our eleventh edition of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation.
If you think you have found an error in a quiz, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Learn all about who and whom, affect and effect, subjects and verbs, adjectives and adverbs, commas, semicolons, quotation marks, and much more by just sitting back and enjoying these easy-to-follow lessons. Tell your colleagues (and boss), children, teachers, and friends. Click here to watch.