Change Nouns to Verbs to Strengthen Your Writing

It’s well over 30℃ out there and my brain is melting so I’m going to keep this brief. Here’s a quick copywriting tip that will immediately improve your writing: change nouns to verbs.

I don’t mean you shouldn’t ever use nouns, of course not, just not ones that are actually hidden verbs.

For example, in this sentence: You can make a payment – make a payment is the hidden verb as it’s been substituted for the verb pay. So you could just say, You can pay.

Hidden verbs tend to make a sentence longer and clunkier than it needs to be as they have to be used with a verb. People seem to use them when they’re trying to sound formal.

By changing the noun back to a verb you can make your copy shorter, punchier and increase cognitive ease.

I go on about cognitive ease and why making sure your copywriting is clear and easy to understand is important as it makes people more likely to trust you and do business with you. And who doesn’t want that?

change verbs to nouns

Change nouns to verbs

Here are some examples:

 

Our team will do a collection of data.

Our team will collect data.

 

We’ve been carrying out examinations of people’s pension plans since 1992.

We’ve been examining people’s pension plans since 1992.

 

You can give us a suggestion for an alternative.

You can suggest an alternative.

 

Salaries have had an increase.

Salaries have increased.

 

You can make your application on our website.

You can apply on our website.

 

Your feedback will help us gain an understanding of our customers’ needs.

Your feedback will help us understand our customers’ needs.

In every example above, the first sentence is more cumbersome and the meaning is less precise than the second. But the noun/verb trick doesn’t work if you’re using a noun in a specific context.

For example:

We’re doing a collection in church.

We’re collecting in church.

A collection in a church is a very specific thing, collecting isn’t, so be careful to check you haven’t changed the meaning of what you want to say.

For grammar buffs, here are some of my other posts you might enjoy:

Is it here’s or here are (and why you should care)

How to use hyphens – definitely one for word nerds

Why are short words more effective than long ones?

 

Thanks for reading!

Sally

P.S. Cognitive ease is how easy it is for someone to understand what you write. In his now-famous study, Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly, Danny Oppenheimer from Princeton University showed that we aren’t impressed by overly long words but actually the opposite. If we find something hard to understand we’re less likely to trust the writer and believe that they’re saying.

P.P.S. Whether you hate informal copy and think it’s dumbing down the English language or you’re a huge fan of it and use it to connect with your readers, feel free to join the conversation about conversational copy on Linked In.

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