Writing Tips

Dull Words and Phrases

Our best writing tip? Edit for clarity and brevity with WordRake. It’s an automated in-line editor that checks for needless words, cumbersome phrases, clichés, and more.

Download a 7-Day Free Trial

How to Enliven Dull Sentences

What Is a Nominalization, Exactly?

Convert nominalizations.


Nominalizations are nouns that should be verbs, as in “make a decision.” We enliven a sentence by converting that phrase to “decide.”


Most nominalizations either:

1. follow a “to be” verb:


It is my recommendation that I recommend we reduce overhead . . . .


2. precede the word “of”:


Which candidate is better suited to the governance of govern our nation?




3. end in “ion”:


The changed circumstances come into collision collide to create . . . .


Nominalizations are such a huge problem in legal writing that we built WordRake editing software to be especially sensitive to them. Here are several nominalization edits (plus a few more edits) suggested by WordRake software exactly as they appeared in the original documents. (Note that out of the eight nominalizations, all but the last one include at least one of the three signs.)


1. Washington courts have held that engaging in the sale of selling alcoholic beverages is a privilege, not a right.


2. In this regard, it is my hope that you I hope you can draft a letter for inclusion in to include in the reconsideration packet that speaks to the immigration consequences of a conviction in this case.


3. It is understood that the files maintained by our firm in support of to support our legal efforts are the property of the firm.


4. The Board shall not consider the personal circumstances of Members in making a determination of determining their estimated federal income tax liability, and may make an assumption as to assume the “tax bracket” applicable as a group.


5. If we choose to use use the 3rd party software, we will need to make a decision on decide who should bear the cost on pay for the purchase of the product, iWill or Chase.


Writing with nominalizations dulls our sentences even more than writing in the passive voice. When we convert those nominalizations to verbs, our writing becomes more interesting and accessible.

Writing Tips in Your Inbox

About Gary Kinder

Gary Kinder

WordRake founder Gary Kinder has taught over 1,000 writing programs for AMLAW 100 firms, Fortune 500 companies, and government agencies. He’s also a New York Times bestselling author. As a writing expert and coach, Gary was inspired to create WordRake when he noticed a pattern in writing errors that he thought he could address with technology.

In 2012, Gary and his team of engineers created WordRake editing software to help writers produce clear, concise, and effective prose. It saves time and gives confidence. Writing and editing has never been easier.

WordRake takes you beyond the merely grammatical to the truly great—the quality editor you’ve always wanted. See for yourself.

Download a 7-Day Free Trial

How Does it Work?

WordRake is editing software designed by writing expert and New York Times bestselling author Gary Kinder. Like an editor or helpful colleague, WordRake ripples through your document checking for needless words and cumbersome phrases. Its complex algorithms find and improve weak lead-ins, confusing language, and high-level grammar and usage slips.

WordRake runs in Microsoft Word and Outlook, and its suggestions appear in the familiar track-changes style. If you’ve used track changes, you already know how to use WordRake. There’s nothing to learn and nothing to interpret. Editing for clarity and brevity has never been easier.