Tips for Concision 12: Revise unnecessary nominalizations.

A nominalization is a noun that could have been a verb.

For example, when nominalized, the verb pay becomes payment. To function as a verb, the noun payment needs help, so we write make a payment. Legal writing is full of these nominalized constructions:

  • enter a settlement > settle
  • bring suit against > sue
  • provide an explanation > explain
  • achieve a reduction > reduce
  • conduct an analysis > analyze

Nominalizations are so common in legal writing that experts have coined plainer terms:

Nominalizations aren’t wrong, just wordy. We lawyers like them, I think, because they sound serious and formal. But when you have a choice, the plain verb form is always more concise than the nominalized form. What’s more, the verb form is more energetic. So when you implement a revision (revise) for nominalizations, you get vigor as well as concision.