What is denominalisation and when should I use it?

Denominalisation, or verbing as it is also known, describes converting a noun into a verb. It is a phenomenon that has become increasingly common in English as we shorten our speech to make it quicker and easier to say what we want.

Some denominalisations have been used so frequently and for such a period of time that we hardly notice them at all, for example if you ‘book’ a table at a restaurant or ‘foot’ the bill. Others have been converted from noun to verb more recently, or are only used in specific contexts, making them sound like jargon. For this reason, many people find their use as verbs irritating or unpalatable.

However, we should keep in mind that all languages naturally evolve over time, and speech or writing that is too long or complex can be unappealing to read or listen to and can confuse the point being conveyed. There are circumstances when denominalisation is appropriate and even preferable, for example in an advertisement that is intended to catch the reader’s attention. A short, snappy piece of text is far more likely to be read and considered by the reader than a much longer and wordier piece.

When deciding whether or not to use a denominalisation, it is best to consider the purpose and context of your writing. Informal or semi-formal communications, such as emails between colleagues, are acceptable contexts for denominalisation, as are documents where keeping text short and to the point is a priority. For more formal documents, unless denominalisation is part of the normal vocabulary or jargon of the topic on which you are writing, it is best to avoid it.