“Send me a detailed outline and I’ll PowerPoint it for you.” Oh, the humanity.
Verbing, verbification, or denominalization is the process of turning
nouns into verbs. It’s a perfectly natural process. As linguist Steven
Pinker says, “Easy conversion of nouns to verbs has been part of English
grammar for centuries; it is one of the processes that make English
Today, we all Google, text, friend, blog, and bookmark.
Verbing is how language evolves, but sometimes the results are
ridiculous—particularly when verbs are created from nouns that were
verbs in the first place, or when there is a stronger, more precise verb
The following examples of verbing make my head ache:
I have no idea where conversate came from, but I have seen it used in a few corporate emails. Has the verb converse been forgotten?
Questionable: Maybe we should try to conversate with Bob instead of sending an email.
Better: Maybe we should try to converse with Bob instead of sending an email.
Similar to conversate, the original verb form is confer.
Questionable: We need to conference with John before the meeting.
Better: We need to confer with John before the meeting.
Wouldn’t it be easier just to use talk?
Questionable: Let’s sit down and dialogue about the new style guide.
Better: Let’s sit down and talk about the new style guide.
Gift has been used as a verb for centuries, according to the
Oxford English Dictionary. Today its use as a verb is quite common, but
it still makes me cringe. Give is a perfectly acceptable verb.
Questionable: I will gift you a new Lego set for your birthday.
Better: I will give you a new Lego set for your birthday.
I was taught in college never to use impact as a verb, but today, impact as a verb is more acceptable. Most dictionaries list “to affect or influence” as a definition of the verb impact, though some state it is not preferred usage. I always change it in the content I edit.
Questionable: Your feedback can impact the board’s decision.
Better: Your feedback can influence the board’s decision.
Other alternatives to impact include: affect, alter, change, impress, act on, relate to, impinge on.
In place of the increasingly common phrase negatively impact, try hurt or some appropriate synonym. Similarly, help or enhance are superior alternatives to positively impact.
No. No. No. A thousand times no.
Questionable: Send me a detailed outline, and I’ll PowerPoint it for you.
Better: Send me a detailed outline, and I’ll create a PowerPoint presentation for you.
Perhaps using signature instead of sign will make you sound more important.
Questionable: I’ll signature those expense reports.
Better: I’ll sign those expense reports
Readers, which examples of verbing drive you to drink?
Laura Hale Brockway is a medical writer and editor from Austin, Texas. Read more of her work at www.impertinentremarks.com.
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