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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Nominalizations Are Zombie Nouns - Helen Sword, NYTimes.com

In this article, Sword provides a clear explanation of why you should strive for the elimination of nominalizations in your writing.

Huh?

In other words, Sword explains clearly why you should eliminate nominalizations from your writing. 

OK, I left in nominalizations (even though my spelling checker highlights it as a misspelled word). 

But isn't the second version simpler and clearer to you? It's a third shorter than the first version in the number of words. 

Now for that nominalization word. If its meaning isn't clear already, here's how Sword describes it:
Take an adjective (implacable) or a verb (calibrate) or even another noun (crony) and add a suffix like ity, tion or ism. You’ve created a new noun: implacability, calibration,cronyism. ... 
Nouns formed from other parts of speech are called nominalizations. ... I call them “zombie nouns” because they cannibalize active verbs, suck the lifeblood from adjectives and substitute abstract entities for human beings. ...
At their best, nominalizations help us express complex ideas: perception, intelligence, epistemology. At their worst, they impede clear communication.
And even those complex ideas are better explained if you use simpler words to explain them:
[T]he more abstract your subject matter, the more your readers will appreciate stories, anecdotes, examples and other handholds to help them stay on track.
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This article is featured in today's (July 24) Garbl's Plain English Paragraphs -- available at the Plain Language tab above and by free email subscription.

For more similar advice, check out Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide. It describes how you can improve your writing skills by using plain-English techniques:


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