I received an email in which the sender used “PowerPoint” as a verb.
“Send me a detailed outline and I’ll PowerPoint it for you.” Oh, the humanity.
Verbing, verbification, or denominalization is the process of turning nouns into verbs. It’s a perfectly natural process. As linguist Steven Pinker says, “Easy conversion of nouns to verbs has been part of English grammar for centuries; it is one of the processes that make English English.”
Today, we all Google
, and bookmark
. Verbing is how language evolves, but sometimes the results are ridiculous—particularly when verbs are created from nouns that were verbs in the first place, or when there is a stronger, more precise verb available.
The following examples of verbing make my head ache:
I have no idea where conversate
came from, but I have seen it used in a few corporate emails. Has the verb converse
: Maybe we should try to conversate with Bob instead of sending an email.
: Maybe we should try to converse with Bob instead of sending an email.
Similar to conversate
, the original verb form is confer
: We need to conference with John before the meeting.
: We need to confer with John before the meeting.
Wouldn’t it be easier just to use talk
: Let’s sit down and dialogue about the new style guide.
: Let’s sit down and talk about the new style guide.
has been used as a verb for centuries, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. Today its use as a verb is quite common, but it still makes me cringe. Give
is a perfectly acceptable verb.
: I will gift you a new Lego set for your birthday.
: I will give you a new Lego set for your birthday.
I was taught in college never to use impact
as a verb, but today, impact
as a verb is more acceptable. Most dictionaries list “to affect or influence” as a definition of the verb impact
, though some state it is not preferred usage. I always change it in the content I edit.
: Your feedback can impact the board’s decision.
: Your feedback can influence the board’s decision.
Other alternatives to impact
, act on
, relate to
, impinge on
In place of the increasingly common phrase negatively impact
, try hurt
or some appropriate synonym. Similarly, help
are superior alternatives to positively impact
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No. No. No. A thousand times no.
: Send me a detailed outline, and I’ll PowerPoint it for you.
: Send me a detailed outline, and I’ll create a PowerPoint presentation for you.
Perhaps using signature
instead of sign
will make you sound more important.
: I’ll signature those expense reports.
: I’ll sign those expense reports
readers, which examples of verbing drive you to drink?
Laura Hale Brockway is a medical writer and editor from Austin, Texas. Read more of her work at www.impertinentremarks.com.