How To Strengthen Your Grammar – With Math!

Ever sit in math class and wonder how ratios, fractions, and percentages would benefit your future life?

Ever laugh at your teacher’s struggle for a good answer?

Ever read your own writing and feel like you just consumed a soggy sandwich?

If you answered yes, this post will solve this age-old math mystery, and improve your writing.

How?

By highlighting weak verbs, nominalizations, and verb-to-sentence-length ratios.

You’ll learn to use more verbs whenever possible (as early in your sentences as possible), use the strongest verbs possible, and avoid using nouns instead of their verb equivalents. Let’s look at an example:

  • Bloggers are in love with Ghostwriter Dad because of his offerings of writing advice.

Two problems exist with this sentence:

  1. Its first verb is the to-be verb are. Am, are, is, was, and were represent weak to-be verbs because they don’t show action or produce a visual for the reader. And they make us wait to learn what the sentence subject is doing. (We had to wait until the forth word of the sentence to learn that love is in the air.)
  2. It contains nominalization, which is wordiness created by using words as nouns instead of verbs. Love is a noun, but it’s stronger as a verb. And in case you didn’t notice, this instance of nominalization carries with it two unnecessary flab-accomplices (the prepositions in and with).

As it stands, this sentence contains 14 words, one weak verb, and a verb-to-sentence-length ratio of seven percent (1 divided by 14). You should have intuitively known this sentence was soggy; now you should understand why (The higher the verb-to-sentence-length ratio goes, the stronger your sentences become). Let’s modify the sentence and see the results:

  • Bloggers love Ghostwriter Dad because of his offerings of writing advice.

We removed the to-be verb are and used love as a verb, thus removing nominalization. This change cut our flabby sentence length by three words, leaving us with 11 words, one stronger verb appearing earlier in the sentence, and a verb-to-sentence-length ratio of nine percent. We can further improve this sentence by removing another instance of nominalization:

  • Bloggers love Ghostwriter Dad because he offers writing advice.

By changing the noun offerings to the verb offers, we cut two more words from our total word count, leaving us with nine words, two powerful verbs, and a verb-to-sentence-length ratio of 23 percent. (Where’d that soggy sandwich go?)

Let’s study another progression from flab to fabulous:

  • Ghostwriter Dad is aware of his offerings of writing advice as the reason for bloggers’ love for him. (18 words, one to-be verb, nominalization, and a verb-to-sentence-length ratio of six percent.)
  • Ghostwriter Dad knows his offerings of writing advice as the reason for bloggers’ love for him. (16 words, one stronger verb, and a verb-to-sentence-length ratio of seven percent.)
  • Blogger Dad knows bloggers love him because he offers writing advice. (11 words, three strong verbs, verb-to-sentence-length ratio of 28 percent, AND a 39% reduction in word count.)

Neat stuff, huh?

Practice this dynamic duo and you’ll strengthen your writing, save your readers some agony, and put a smile on your math teacher’s face.

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2 Comments on “How To Strengthen Your Grammar – With Math!”

  1. Linda says:

    Have you never been told, “Shane, I love you, but I’m not IN LOVE with you”? Even in the context you cite, the connotations are not exactly the same.

    • Shane says:

      @Linda: Okay, you made me laugh…and want to forget those “I love you, but I’m not in love with you” memories. If a relationship article crossed my desk, I’d be more mindful of this distinction and less likely to remove the flab. 😉


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