Business writing is full of phrases like the one below, where complex adjectives are paired up with the copula (the verb to be). Constructions like this allow the writer to use important-sounding adjectives like integrative and applicable, but they remove the reader a level or two from the action.

learning experiences that are integrative and applicable to associates’ jobs

Now, please understand: I’ve got nothing against the be verb or polysyllabic adjectives. But verbs are a sentence’s lifeblood. They communicate what’s happening, and that action is what propels phrases, clauses, and paragraphs forward.

Here, however, two perfectly good verbs — integrate and apply — lie beneath a few coats of syntactic polyurethane. And with them unavailable, the writer has glued the phrase together with are, one of the feeblest verbs in English.

Worse yet, obscuring the verbs has let a mismatched preposition sneak through. The word integrative is questionable to begin with, but like integrate, it should take the preposition with, not to.

Confused yet? Okay. First, let’s extract the verbs from the adjectives and clean up the prepositions.

learning experiences that can be integrated with and applied to associates’ jobs

Better. Removing the passive voice will further improve things. Depending on who’s doing the action, that looks like this:

learning experiences that associates can integrate with and apply to their jobs
learning experiences that we can integrate with and apply to associates’ jobs
learning experiences that you can integrate with and apply to associates’ jobs

Bonus round: Does it still sound a little clunky to your ear? Yeah, mine too. Adding the word with (still a necessary correction) has complicated things a bit. So let’s consider the meaning here. There’s a case to be made for some overlap between the ideas of integrating and applying. I’d examine the surrounding sentences and see if we could do without one of the two verbs:

learning experiences that associates can integrate with their jobs
learning experiences that associates can apply to their jobs

If the context allows it, then we’re golden.

You’ll see more posts from me on this topic as the blog continues. But for now, keep your eyes open for hidden verbs in your writing — particularly any that appear with a word like is or are or being. Then try your hand at a little verb extraction, and see how it goes.

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