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Home > Students > Career Development Office > CDO News > Want powerful resumes and cover letters? Eliminate nominalizations
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Want powerful resumes and cover letters? Eliminate nominalizations

July 6, 2012

Tags: CDO, 2013

Except for passive voice, the use of nominalizations (a/k/a buried verbs) is perhaps the best sign of poor legal writing. Legal writing expert Bryan Garner calls buried verbs "the sworn enemy of every serious writer," and "an even more serious problem than passive voice" because invariably they "reflect muddy thinking."

Click here for a great article on why we tend to use so many buried verbs and why we should get rid of them. Here's an example of 30 nominalizations taken from three of Garner's books, and the action verbs you should replace them with:

  1. in violation of — violate
  2. provide an illustration of — illustrate
  3. undertake the representation of — represent
  4. furnish an indemnification to — indemnify
  5. in mitigation of — mitigate
  6. conduct an examination of — examine
  7. make accommodation for — accommodate
  8. make provision for — provide for
  9. make a contribution — contribute
  10. provide a description of — describe
  11. submit an application — apply
  12. take into consideration — consider
  13. in preparation for — to prepare for
  14. have a discussion about — discuss
  15. conduct an examination of — examine
  16. provide responses — respond
  17. offer testimony — testify
  18. make inquiry — inquire
  19. provide assistance — assist
  20. place a limitation upon — limit
  21. provide protection to — protect
  22. reach a resolution — resolve
  23. reveal the identity of — identify
  24. bring an action against — sue
  25. makes mention of — states or says
  26. are in compliance with — comply
  27. draw a distinction — distinguish
  28. made allegations — alleged
  29. was in conformity with — conformed
  30. to effect settlement — settled