Saturday, January 19, 2008

More -Tion Words and the Passive Voice

Today, I'm thinking again about confounding readers by using the passive voice and -tion words. I have come to the realization that it's a nasty habit.

Can you see how that sentence wasted at least three words? “Realize” stands alone and doesn't require the crutch supplied by “come”. A stronger sentence would have been, “I realize that it is a nasty habit.”

When you add the -tion suffix, you turn a perfectly good verb into a noun that requires support from extra words. Let's try some more examples.

Okay: Anne offered a clear explanation of the problem.
Better: Anne clearly explained the problem.

Bad: We made a determination of our objectives.
Better: We determined our objectives.

Horrid: The intention of this article is to demonstrate a better approach.
Improved: Scrap that altogether. Try, “You will learn a better (safer, easier, pick you adjective) way to...”

That last, horrid example demonstrates not only using a verb to act like a noun but how, when you choose that route, you are forced into a passive construction. Consider “the intention is...” You've created a purely passive sentence by weakening your verb.

You could have written, “I intend,” a shorter phrase that includes someone doing something (abstract though the “action” may be). Doing so leads your reader around the point rather than straight to it. For a much longer discussion with a broader scope, visit Web Writing That Works.