The prevention of longwindedness

An endemic issue – one of the top minor annoyances. Dutch writers love the structure “the + (verbal noun) + of” where English prefers the gerund: “preventing longwindedness”.

It’s a valid structure (although not usually the native’s first choice) that is often a literal translation of the Dutch. Such structures tend to be heavily overused and, while the native speaker reading it won’t balk at the first one, the umpteenth instance on the same page will feel clunky and translated. If you’re not clear about the grammatical terminology, here are a few examples from real life.

  • a facility for the validation of various structures => validating
  • the development of ideas => developing
  • the integration of package X => integrating
  • the provision of medicines => providing medicine
  • the prevention of duplicated work => preventing
  • the sharing of data => data sharing
  • the construction of schools => constructing/building schools
  • the execution of the task => executing/carrying out the task

Note that the “-ing” form (the gerund to the grammar geeks) can also take an adverb and takes a direct object – both of which can be shorter ways of phrasing things.

Prevalence: endemic. Either where the infinitive verb form has been used as a noun (het voorkomen) or from a literal translation.
Frequency: very high. Usually many such changes.
Native: yes. We’re well capable of excess wordiness and we all use these structures. Just not every single time.

Published by Mike Wilkinson

Twenty years of translating and editing Dutch into English, as well as writing and publishing in English.

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