Verbs and Wordiness

The more words we use to say what we could in fewer words, the weaker the writing is. Strong verbs enable us to use fewer words:

John rode his bicycle from Oregon to Washington.  

John bicycled from Oregon to Washington.


The game was put on television.

The game was televised.


The dogs chased a raccoon up a tree.

The dogs treed a raccoon.

The Process

Using verbs to reduce the number of words is a two-step process:

      1. Find a noun
      2. Turn the noun into a verb.

For example:

John put the fruit salad in the refrigerator.

Nouns in the sentence:

John put the fruit salad in the refrigerator.

Can you use any of those to reduce the number of words?   

John refrigerated the fruit salad.

The Value of Noun-Verbs

Using nouns as verbs has two advantages:

      1. They reduce the number of words.
      2. They enable readers to see an action and an object at the same time.

Class Activity

Reduce the following by changing a noun to a noun-verb.

1.      I want you to put those papers into boxes.

2.      Jane was the chair of the basketball committee.

3.      Barry and Wendy played on the teeter-totter after school.

4.      Juanita put up wallpaper in her bedroom.

5.      John rode a jet-ski to Paradise Island.

6.      Sally jumped all the way to school on her pogostick.

7.      Jennifer used a tape recorder for the work she needed to memorize.

8.      Ms. Prince obtained tickets for her clients for their trip to Figi.

Using More Precise Action Verbs

Sometimes you cannot find a noun verb. In that case, use the strongest action verb possible.

The sentence below –

      1. Repeats an action (placing the cookies in the oven)
      2. Gives unnecessary information (Fahrenheit)
      3. Can have its word-count reduced through a better verb.

Wordy and weak: Put the cookies in the oven.  After putting the cookies in the oven, turn on the oven to 350 derees Fahrenheit. 

Precise:                  Bake the cookies at 350°.

Class Activity

Use a stronger action verb or a noun-verb to reduce the following:

1. The giraffe reached its neck up like a crane to eat the highest leaf.

2. The malfunctioning stoplight caused traffic to bottleneck for an hour.

3. Jeff flew a helicopter to Lake Swan for some fabulous fishing.

4. Can you tell me if Paris Hilton likes to shop in Paris, France?

5. I submitted an application for the job.

6. Sonya took her boat to Crew Island.

7. Jesse put icing on the wedding cake.

8. John pushed the accelerator to 110.

Individual or Small Group Activity

Complete both exercises:      Belgium