Improve your Writing Series – Avoid Nominalizations in your Proposals

One of the best ways to improve your writing is to use active verbs instead of nominalizations.

What is a nominalization, anyway? A nominalization is a verb converted into a noun. Nominalizations come in two forms:

  • Those that have endings such as -ment, -tion, -sion, -ing, and -ance
  • Those that link with verbs such as achieve, effect, give, have, make, reach, and take.

For example, “The last step is the collection of data for the monthly report.” is longer and less clear than: “The Program Manager collects data for the monthly report.” Eliminating a nominalization often reveals passive voice and enables you to correct that as well.

There is always a verb hidden inside a nominalization. Consider:

  • Conclusion – conclude
  • Demonstration – demonstrate
  • Analysis – analyze
  • Optimization – optimize
  • Solution – solve
  • Possession – possess
  • Realization – realize
  • Collection – collect

Examples of verb linkage nominalizations and the hidden verb include:

  • Gave a report – reported
  • Made a decision – decided
  • Offered a suggestion – suggested
  • Served as a catalyst – catalyzed
  • Resulted in an increase – increased
  • Issued an announcement – announced
  • Led to the destruction of – destroyed

Nominalizations should be avoided! They impact the readability, clarity, and effectiveness of your proposal. They take the actions away from the actor, and they weaken the impact of your intended message.

  • Nominalizations make writing less effective and use more words than you need. When you reword nominalizations, your sentences usually become more concise.
  • Nominalizations allow you to omit the subject. When you don’t say who is doing the action, your sentences become vague and use a passive voice. Who is doing the action?
  • Nominalizations often result in weak verbs. Turning a verb into a noun causes it to lose power and makes the sentence weak.

You can locate many nominalizations using the find feature in Microsoft Word. Search for “ion”, “ing”, or “ment”. Scroll through these and determine if the word is a nominalization. Identify the related verb, and rephrase your sentence.

Denominalizing helps you create sentences that are clear, concise, and unified. When you convert a nominalization to a verb, your readers will thank you!

by Maryann Lesnick, Managing Director at Lohfeld Consulting Group, CP APMP, PMP, CSM, MOS.

Lohfeld Consulting Group has proven results specializing in helping companies create winning captures and proposals.

As the premier capture and proposal services consulting firm focused exclusively on government markets, we provide expert assistance to government contractors in Go-to-Market Strategy, Capture Planning and Strategy, Proposal Management and Writing, Capture and Proposal Process and Infrastructure, and Training. In the last 3 years, we’ve supported over 550 proposals winning more than $135B for our clients—including the Top 10 government contractors. Lohfeld Consulting Group is your “go-to” capture and proposal source! Start winning by contacting us at and join us on LinkedInFacebook, and Twitter.

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