Writing Effectively at The World Health Organization

Verb-based writing

Verb-based sentence constructions use verbs to govern the action of the sentence. The ‘opposite’ form, noun-based constructions, aligns sentences around nouns.

Noun-based writing is common to a bureaucratic style that can be long-winded and tiresome to read. For example, instead of saying “The project officer decided to review the operations”, the noun-based sentence might say: “The project officer made a decision to conduct a review of the operations.” Notice how the two verbs in the original sentence (decided and review) have stretched into noun-based phrases (made a decision, conduct a review).

Our goal is to use verb-based constructions. Verbs bring life to the writing; they convey action and engage the reader. By comparison, there is no direct action in noun-based writing; nothing seems to happen. Noun-based constructions also tend to use more words.

Have a look at these two paragraphs: one is noun-based, and the other is verb-based. Notice the difference in readability between the two.

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