Tip 8 - Avoid nominalizations.

To write this article, I conducted research and engaged in an analysis on how nominalizations have an impact on reader comprehension.

No self-respecting legal writing instructor would publish that sentence. Let me try again:

To write this article, I researched and analyzed how nominalizations affect how readers comprehend a text.

Much better. Both sentences are grammatically correct, and yet my second try is clearer, more direct, and concise. This is because I took all of the nominalizations-- that is, verbs that have been turned into nouns--and changed them back to active verbs. Nouns are less vivid than verbs, and as with the passive voice, sentences containing nouns strung together by linking verbs and forms of to be are often weaker and wordier sentences that slow readers down rather than carry them along swiftly to your next important idea. Indeed, by avoiding nominalizations, you will avoid needless words clogging up your text, as mentioned in Tip 2.

Changing nominalizations to active verbs is not a difficult part of your editing process; nominalizations are easy to locate because they usually end in the following ways: -ion, -ment, and -ance. Moreover, nominalizations are accompanied by wordy prepositional phrases. Thus, sentences cluttered with nominalizations are often abstract rather than concrete. Compare the following examples:

Nominalized Sentence

There was quite a bit of disagreement between partners over the decision whether to offer the associate position to the Belgian stagiaire or the American law school graduate.

Active Verb Sentence

The partners disagreed considerably over who to hire as the new associate, the Belgian stagiaire or the American law school graduate.

Or

The partners disagreed considerably over whether to hire the Belgian stagiaire or the American law school graduate for the associate position.

Nominalized Sentence

The refusal of the transportation authority and the union to reach an agreement on the new contract resulted in the cessation of bus and train service on Monday.

Active Verb Sentence

On Monday, bus and train services ceased because the transportation authority and the union refused to agree on the new contract.

Here are other common nominalizations and how to make them active:

 

Nominalization

Active Verb

difference

differs

failure

fails

interpretation

interprets

decision

decide

suggestion

suggest

destruction

destroy

gave a report

reported

gave/made a statement

said

result in delay

delayed

conduct an examination

examine

caused confusion

confuse

reaction

react

movement

move

discovery

discover

 

 

 

 

Previous Tip - Avoid ambiguous words and phrases.

Next Tip - Check your punctuation.

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