Williams suggests that writers think of sentences as stories with characters (subjects) and actions (verbs).
Simple subject Whole subject Character Action Verb The evidence that you offer is not reliable.
Back in elementary school, we learned that the subject of the sentence was the doer of an action and the verb of a sentence was the action. Jane jumps. = subject verb (doer/character action)
But the doer (character) isn’t always the subject of a sentence. Any noun can be the subject of the sentence. Jane’s jumping went on and on. Jumping went = subject verb Jane is the doer (or character) but jumping is the subject of the sentence.
The main action isn’t always the main verb of a sentence. Often the action has been changed into a noun. Jane’s jumping went on and on. Jumps becomes jumping and went becomes the main verb of the sentence.
Williams suggests we return to the idea that doers=subjects and important actions=verbs. Even complex academic prose will be more clear and more powerful if we make doers (what Williams calls characters) the subjects of our sentences and if we make actions the verbs of our sentences.
Make your main character the subject of your sentence. More on this principle in Lesson 4
Make the important actions the verbs of your sentence. The director completed a review of the data. Vs. The directed reviewed the data.
First drafts often have important actions as nouns Often this action has been changed into a noun. Nominalization (or nounialization) is a noun derived from an action. (It is also a noun derived from an adjective. Careless becomes carelessness. More on this problem in Lesson4.)
Character + actions become nouns (gerund): She flies becomes her flying. We sing becomes our singing.
Some verbs are, without any change, positioned as nouns: Hope (verb) becomes hope (noun) Result (verb) becomes result (noun) Repair (verb) becomes repair (noun)
What is the simple subject and verb of this sentence?
Ignoring introductory phrases, underline the first eight words in a sentence. a) Do you have an abstract noun (especially a nominalization) as the simple subject? b) Do you have 6 or 7 words before you get to a verb? “Yes” means your sentence may need revising.
1) Decide who your main characters are 2) Decide what actions these main characters perform (look especially to those nominalizations, those actions that became nouns)
New sentence parts: 1. Corporations outsource high-tech work to Asia 2. Many Americans loose jobs 3) Use conjunctions (because, if, when, although, why, how, whether, that, since, so long as, provided that) to make the logic of the relationships clear
Nominalizations with “empty verbs” or “bland verbs” such as to be (is, are, were) to seem, to have, to do Nominalizations following “There is” and “There are” Multiple nominalizations in a sentence
Your sentences are more concrete and thus more powerful (nominalization results in abstract, vague nouns) Your sentences will be shorter and thus more direct since they will be free of unnecessary verbiage. The logic of the relationship of the ideas will be more clear. You sentences will tell a more coherent story.
Williams does thinks some nouns derived from verbs do useful work and shouldn’t be rewritten. 37-38