Watch What You Write: This page is devoted to defending the English language and encouraging disciplined writing. Our regular contributor will be Adrianne LeMan who will seize on sloppy writing and firmly remind us of the need to write correctly. However, we welcome other contributors. Just send your piece or any comments on what we have published to

Adrianne LeMan

One of the (many) things that irritates me is nouns used as verbs. The Daily Telegraph recently ran a piece about postal deliveries: “TNT Post…is to trial delivering on the streets of West London…”. “Trial” is a noun, chaps, there is no verb, “to trial”. It would have been better had the journalist written, “TNT Post…is going to run/conduct a trial on the streets of West London”, or something similar.

Also, although “impact” is a transitive verb* as well as a noun I hate that, too, used as a verb. “The cuts will impact poor families the most”, for example. English needs to sound right as well as to be right, and that sounds ugly. “The cuts will affect poor families…” or “will have the biggest impact on poor families…” sounds, and reads, so much better.

Finally, “invite” (verb) seems to have replaced “invitation” (noun), even in the most traditional circles. I have an invitation from the Royal Academy requesting “the honour” of my company at a private view of the Summer Exhibition: “This invite admits one RA Friend…”, it says. How bizarre to send something out that, on the one hand, is very “correct” and rather old fashioned and, on the other uses a verb, “invite”, instead of a noun, “invitation”.

*A transitive verb expresses an activity (to hit, to write, to paint, etc) and has a direct object – something or someone who is the recipient of the activity. For example, John [subject] hit [transitive verb] his sister [direct object]; I [subject] wrote [transitive verb] a letter [direct object]; you [subject] painted [transitive verb] the wall [direct object]. Intransitive verbs do not have direct objects.

Adrianne LeMan originally trained as a designer. She worked on the art desks of newspapers and magazines before moving on to work for, and run, design consultancies. Since 1992, when she founded her own business, she has also written and edited annual reports, websites, brochures, etc, for a wide range of major companies. She retired from her business in 2008 and now works as a freelance writer/editor – again working for major companies. She is interested in words: their use, and misuse, the way they are spelled and the way they look. She is also interested in the use, and misuse, of language, which should be clear and to the point. 

Adrianne has a post graduate degree in design from the Royal College of Art and an MA in Contemporary History and Politics from Birkbeck College, London University.