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Concise Verb Use

In the English language, sentences revolve around the action of the sentence, which is expressed through the verb. At times, writers include unneeded phrases in their academic writing. Some of these phrases detract from the clarify and strength of the verb, such as in the first sentence below.

Sentence: During oppressive political and economic regimes, many families in several South American countries STRUGGLED IN A DESPERATE ATTEMPT to survive.


Edited Sentence: During oppressive political and economic regimes, many families in several South American countries STRUGGLED DESPERATELY to survive.


Explanation: The action expressed in the sentence above is “struggled.” However, when describing how the families struggled, the writer uses a prepositional phrase (“in a desperate attempt”). Prepositional phrases begin with a preposition (in this case, “in”) and end with a noun (in this sentence, “attempt”). While nothing is grammatically incorrect with the sentence, it elongates the verb phrase.


Therefore, the prepositional phrase is replaced with the adverb “desperately” in the edited sentence. This change clearly and concisely describes how the families struggled. When writing, use active adverbs to describe a verb rather than a prepositional phrase, which can unnecessarily extend the verb phrase.


Dr. V


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