Saturday, August 10, 2013

Clear, concise, and effective English for law students, bar examinees, and legal writers in organizations, private companies, and government offices (18): Avoid nominalization or hidden verbs

[1] A hidden verb is a verb converted into a noun. It often needs an extra verb to make sense. So we write, “Please make an application for a personal loan” rather than “Please apply for a personal loan.” (US SEC “A Plain English Handbook” 1998)

[2] Two signals of nominalization

A. Distinct endings B. Weak helping verbs
- ance
- ence
- ant
- ity
- ant
- ment
- ness
- sion
- tion
be
conduct
do
effect
get
give
have
hold
make
perform
provide
put

[3] Example from US Federal Rules of Evidence (Rule 102. Purpose and Construction)

Original provision Plain Language revision
These rules shall be construed to secure fairness in administration, elimination of unjustifiable expense and delay, and promotion of growth and development of the law of evidence to the end that the truth may be ascertained and proceedings justly determined. These rules should be construed so as to administer every proceeding fairly, eliminate unjustifiable expense and delay, and promote the development of evidence law, to the end of ascertaining the truth and securing a just determination.

[4] Examples from US SEC “A Plain English Handbook” 1998

Text with nominalization Plain Language revision
We made an application We applied ...
We made a determination We determined ...
We will make a distribution ... We will distribute ...
We will provide appropriate information to shareholders concerning… We will inform shareholders about…
We will have no stock ownership of the company. We will not own the company’s stock.
There is the possibility of prior Board approval of these investments. The Board might approve these investments in advance.

[5] Examples from Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission: How to create clear announcements

Text with hidden verbs Plain Language revision
Shareholders will be notified of the commencement of the offer. Shareholders will be notified when the offer commences.
If there is a refusal by the Court to... If the Court refuses to...
The company will make application to the Stock Exchange... The company will apply to the Stock Exchange...
The SFC must grant permission... The SFC must permit...
The director made the statement in reliance upon... The director relied on...
The shareholders have passed a resolution... The shareholders have resolved...
Payment will be made by the purchaser... The purchaser will pay...


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