Turning Verbs into Nouns May Be Bad for Your Writing

In the previous post on nominalizations, I talked about how nominalizations are formed and briefly touched on a general approach to remedying them. In this post, I’ll explain ways to identify and correct specific nominalizations, as well as point out some legitimate uses of nominalization.

Nominalization is a fancy word that means taking a part of speech such as a verb, adjective, or adverb and turning it into a noun—primarily at the head of a sentence. Doing this can lead to some weak sentence structure.

Watch out for nominalizations that follow a verb:

  • The auditors conducted an investigation into the embezzlement
  • Better: The auditors investigated the embezzlement

Nominalization following there is:

  •  There was an erosion of customer confidence following the auditor’s discovery.
  • Better: The discovery eroded customers’ confidence.

Nominalization as the subject of an empty verb:

  • The partners’ discussion concerned enhanced regulations.
  • Better: The partners discussed enhanced regulations.

Consecutive nominalizations:

  • There was a first review of the progression of the audit.
  • Better: First, the partners reviewed the progression of the audit.
  • Or: First, the partners reviewed how the audit progressed.

Linked nominalizations:

  • Their insistence on strict adherence to regulatory guidelines created the dilemma.
  • Better: They insisted on adhering strictly to the regulatory guidelines, and it created the dilemma.

I hope this helps you spot those pesky nouns that work better if changed into verbs.

2 Responses to “Turning Verbs into Nouns May Be Bad for Your Writing”

  1. Mary Gottschalk October 24, 2014 at 7:54 am #

    Susanne … loved this blog … great advice. I think of this type of error as looking through the wrong end of a telescope … the extra words distance you from the point you are trying to make. They weaken the impact of the key verb and add unnecessary words.

    I hope a lot of writers read this blog!

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