Make the performer of the action, the subject.  
Make the action, the verb.

Test your sentences: Do you have trouble figuring out who or what is doing the action--or what that action is?


The solution is simple to understand, but not always easy to do.  Here’s your guiding principle: Make the performer of the action, the subject.  Make the action, the verb.

Any of the following may be symptoms of fuzzy, obscure, confusing sentences in which the performer is not the subject or the main action is not the verb, or both. You’ll often find several in the same sentence.

  • Passive voice
  • Weak verbs
  • Nominalizations
  • Noun phrases
  • Too many prepositional phrases
  • Too many infinitives
  • Sentences that begin with there is/this is/that is, who is.

Here are sample sentences to work on.  You can go about improving them in either of two ways:  

  1. Look for the problems listed above and try to eliminate them, always striving for clarity, precision of thought, conciseness, and graceful expression. 
  2. Look for the performer of the action.  Make it the subject.  Look for the important action.  Make it the verb. 

While you’re at it, eliminate other types of wordiness.  The meaning may be fuzzy at best.  Eliminate that fuzziness.

This is the medicine that will help to reduce the swelling.

A purse that was full of money was found by a stranger last night.

There is a probability of a proposal for an increase of more than $1,000,000, 000 in the budget of the United States federal government for the undertaking of federal highway improvement construction work beginning in the next calendar year.

Here is the list of  sentences that ought to be combined when the substantial work of your revision of the essay is undertaken in light of the suggestions of your instructor.

The townspeople who are on the board voted in favor of an increase in the school budget.

This new gadget takes the place of that screwdriver for most intents and purposes.

The patient is in need of care.

A hole-in-one was shot by a golfer who is 101.

The man who was bleeding received medical attention by the resident on call.

The shootings which occurred in our fair city over this last weekend were, it is assumed, done by a one deranged individual of English descent; two individuals of Irish descent were seriously injured as a result.

Any houses that are not built to code by local contractors will not be given certificates of occupancy by inspectors in our locality.