Clear Technical Writing
Simple Action

Begin and End

Simple verbs make writing clear.

We will begin the project tomorrow.

Complex verbs risk the opposite.

We will initiate the project tomorrow.

The verb initiate is a complex version of the simple verb begin. It can emphasize causation, and it can suggest membership.

When you want to say something more complex, it is appropriate to use the more complex verb.

The project manager wanted to improve coordination, so he initiated a series of weekly meetings for the whole team.

The same ideas apply to other synonyms for the simple verb begin.

Work will begin after the holiday.

Work will commence after the holiday.

The verb commence can emphasize formality, and it can suggest entering a new state.

The ITIL4 course will commence this summer at the training campus.

Consider another simple verb, end.

This will end our involvement.

This will terminate our involvement.

The verb terminate can emphasize finality, and it can suggest setting a limit in time or space.

His contracted employment terminates after six months.

The same ideas apply to other synonyms for the simple verb end.

We will end our session tomorrow.

We will conclude our session tomorrow.

The verb conclude can emphasize established procedure, and it can suggest reasoning.

Our host concluded the conference with a speech about innovation.

Okay, you ask, but what about start and finish? Fair point. It's subjective, but we can generalize about these kinds of words.

direct: begin, start, break, stop, end

nuanced: commence, pause, continue, resume, finish

The direct words are northern European, Anglo and Germanic. The nuanced words are southern European, French and Latin.


• When your writing is imperative or instructive, start with the direct words.

• When your writing is descriptive or narrative, consider trying the nuanced words.

It's like the difference between banging a beer stein and clinking a wine glass.

Note: The author of this course is neither a Francophile nor an Anglophile, but it is his considered opinion that without the many borrowings from French, English would be as dull as dishwater. (Please submit all outraged complaints via our contact page.)

Edit your writing by underlining verbs that may be unnecessarily complex.

We will initiate the robotics project. However, the project could be terminated if the results are not useful. First, we will launch the design of a vision subsystem, which will complete when we demonstrate human-like evaluation of the dynamic environment. Then we will commence a search for a custom gripper, which will conclude when we have a high degree of picking accuracy. Finally, we will embark on building the real-time controller, an effort that may discontinue if we do not achieve a fast and fluid range of movement.

Lesson: Begin and End
Module: Simple Action
Course: Clear Technical Writing