Posted by: Jack Henry | December 24, 2013

Editor’s Corner: 9 ladies dancing

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: 9 ladies dancing.

I’ve dreaded today. Not because of the dancing ladies but because of the topic I came up with. That topic, my friends, is the “verbing” of nouns.

For those of you that want some examples of what “verbing a noun” is (outside of the word “verbing” itself) here you go:

Noun Example of “verbing” Existing Alternative Aesthetic Rating
action Please finish your schedules; we can’t action these items until I know who will be here. address, complete Two thumbs way down. What the heck are you trying to say?
architect As soon as we decide on a standard, we can architect the program. design, draft Puke.
author John Steinbeck authored The Red Pony in 1933. write Minus five stars out of five. This makes me want to cry.
flight “Clause said all three girls were initially conscious at the scene. Swanson and Zeien were flighted to the Milwaukee Area Medical Complex.” (from DailyWritingTips article) flown Next time? The reporter of this article should be air lifted to the Milwaukee Area Language Institute.
impact The delivery date was negatively impacted by the snow. affect Google “impacted” and look at the suggested searches. There. Now never use it again when you mean “affected.”
journal She is journaling about everything that happens on her trip. write Yuck.

Some of you may have read my rant on using the word “architect” as a verb ( Well, I have another noun that has been “verbed” and it perplexes me to no end, particularly because this time it is in my field. That word, folks, is “authoring.”

I like this quote on the topic from DailyWritingTips: “The capacity of English for turning nouns into verbs is both its glory and its bane.” That’s as much of the glory as you are going to get. I am here to tell you all about the bane. Why? Because I find the “verbing” of nouns is generally due to laziness! English is full of lovely words that mean what you are trying to say: use your words! This, and often the “new” word is not as precise as the existing word. An author is a person who writes something. I have heard people use the word “authoring” to refer to writing a book, to creating programs, to using programs to create documentation, to document, etc. Which one is it?

The other reason I have a problem with turning nouns into verbs is that it perpetuates jargon. There are many extremely intelligent people in my field (with gigantic vocabularies) and yet they get sucked into the jargon vacuum. Again, I come back to “authoring” and “architecting.”

It is part of my job to promote clear writing that does not contain a lot of jargon, so I will continue fighting this trend according to the following rule: before perpetuating these “verbed” words, I will consider them and try to find an existing word that works better. If I can’t find something that works, then maybe I will jump on the bandwagon. (Oh, who am I kidding? I’m a fighter. I’ll use the word “impacted” for a tooth or colon, but I refused to use it where “affected” functions just as well.)

The most I can ask of you is that you make the same considerations in your writing.


Kara Church

Senior Technical Editor

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

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