Trim the Fat: Verbs

Trim the FatAnother way to trim textual fat is to carve unnecessary verbs.

Review your manuscripts for generic verbs (italicized below) that introduce a phrase in which a working verb (in bold) becomes a noun (underlined). Cut the bland verb and replace the noun with its strong verb counterpart:

Change “do a study of the results” to “study the results.”
Change “have a tendency to” to “tend to.”
Change “is suggestive of” to “suggests.”
Change “make changes in” to “change.”
Change “make determinations about” to “determine about.”
Change “make progress through” to “progress through.”
Change “provide an analysis of” to “analyze.”
Change “serve to make amendments to” to “amend.”

Other verbs to pare crop up in noun-modifying clauses. You can often cut these weak verbs along with the pronouns and helping verbs that introduce them:

Change “the marbles that are contained in” to “the marbles in.”
Change “the teachers who are concerned are” to “the teachers are.”
Change “the quotation that is referenced in” to “the quotation in.”
Change “the steps that are included in” to “the steps in.”
Change “the words displayed in” to “the words in.”
Change “the falsehoods provided in” to “the falsehoods in.”

Trim the fat, and your prose will profit.

Source: Edit Yourself by Bruce Ross-Larson

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