In this sense, peripherally, when it is enabled, suggests an opening, a way of gaining access to sources for understanding through growing involvement. The ambiguity inherent in peripheral participation must then be connected to issues of legitimacy, of the social organization of and control over resources, if it is to gain its full analytical potential.
Every single sentence has a zombie noun or a pronoun as its subject, coupled with an uninspiring verb. To get a feeling for how zombie nouns work, release a few of them into a sentence and watch them sap all of its life.
George Orwell played this game in his essay Politics and the English Language, ” contrasting a well-known verse from Ecclesiastes with his own satirical translation: Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.
The Bible passage speaks to our senses and emotions with concrete nouns (sun, bread), descriptions of people (the swift, the wise, men of understanding, men of skill) and punchy abstract nouns (r ace, battle, riches, time, chance). Orwell’s “modern English” version, by contrast, is teeming with nominalization (considerations, conclusion, activities, tendency, capacity, unpredictable) and other vague abstractions (phenomena, success, failure, element).
A paragraph heavily populated by nominalization will send your readers straight to sleep. For an operationalized assessment of your own propensity for nominalization dependence (translation: to diagnose your own zombie habits), try pasting a few samples of your prose into the Writer’s Diet test.
A score of “flabby” or “heart attack” in the noun category indicates that 5 percent or more of your words are nominalization. Helen Sword teaches at the University of Auckland and has published widely on academic writing, higher education pedagogy, modernist literature and digital poetics.
The Stone The Perils of Being a Black Philosopher After reading so many hateful messages I began to feel sick, literally. Arguments for nominalization center around the concept of “formal” or “academic” writing.
The reason cited is nominalization gives writing a passive, more formal feel. Basically, these arguments think using nominalization makes writers sound smarter.
Nominalization: On the basis of the analysis, which was made of the data which were collected, it is suggested that the null hypothesis can be rejected. Concise Verb: Once we analyzed the collected data, we could reject the null hypothesis.
In the second example, there are two concise verbs: “analyzed” and “reject,” and the sentence consists of twelve words. Nominalization can help your writing when you want to refer to something a second time while avoiding tedious and confusing repetition.
Our decision to consult a professional resulted in the advice to sell our stocks. In areas outside of academia and legal fields, keep nominalization to a minimum, or, better yet, avoid using it altogether.
With NominalizationWith a Concise Everywhere is opposition among many people to wearing masks based on a disbelief of their ability to prevent virus transfer. Many people oppose masks because they don’t believe masks prevent virus transfer. Our fee for the preparation of and the filing of an appeal is $100.00. Our fee to prepare and file an appeal is $100.00. The assumption that creative ability has a relationship to intelligence warrants further examination. We must examine how creative ability relates to intelligence. The dogs worked diligently to come to a resolution regarding the squirrel problem in the backyard. The dogs worked together to resolve the backyard squirrel problem. The mother promised to take into consideration the good behavior of her child during quarantine. The mother promised to consider the child’s good behavior during quarantine. They are in agreement. She has a tendency to talk too much. She tends to be talkative. This is an indication of how committed BKA Content is to providing high-quality writing. This indicates how committed BKA Content is to providing high-quality writing. He made his apologies for blowing out the birthday candles early. He apologized for blowing out the birthday candles early.
She made a decision to stop eating chocolate. She decided to stop eating chocolate. The paper provided an analysis of Sasquatch fur. The paper analyzed Sasquatch fur. There is a need for a book club. We need a book club. We’d like to provide an understanding of why kids talk so much. We’d like to understand why kids talk so much. Excessive nominalization is easy to spot when you know what to look for. The Hemingway Editor program is a great tool for identifying passive voice created by nominalization.
Remember, if the project you’re writing turns into a grammar apocalypse, go after the zombie nouns first! Feel free to share your apocalyptic grammar stories using nominalization examples in the comments below.
Neurologists may be more interested in social avoidance than in the actions of any individual mouse, but their sentences will still be clearer when their subjects are tangible things like mice as compared to abstract roles or behaviors like social avoidance. Stephen Pinker contrasts the combined Prevention of neurogenesis diminished social avoidance against the clearer, more tangible, “When we prevented neurogenesis, the mice no longer avoided other mice” (in The Sense of Style Viking 2014: p. 50).
(Wayne Chess at Legalizing.net has some great examples sentences of decriminalized phrases in his 2008 blog post, “When verbs become nouns.” ) Compare, for example, these two sentences adapted from The Purdue OWL: Elephants argue over small concerns, just like humans.
Perhaps it’s the sight of jack-o'-lanterns dotting the neighborhood, but my dog tends to act more skittish than normal during our nightly walks in October. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a bit more on edge as well.
Uncovering the hidden verb also helps you avoid passive constructions, as shown in the first sample from above. As you review the table, note how words ending with the suffixes action and event offer clues to potential hidden verbs.
Nominalization (bolded)Hidden Verb give a presentation present make a decision decide take into consideration consider provide an analysis analyze come to an estimation estimate perform a calibration calibrate give an assignment assign do an assessment asses shave a requirement require offer a description describe perform a review review bring energy to energize Editor’s Tip: When referring to a document, you might want to keep the nominalization. During yesterday’s meeting I gave a description of our services to a client.
After testing the drives you returned, our line engineer arrived at the determination that they failed because the temperatures in the cabinet exceeded the maximum operating temperatures of the drives. Table C shows an indication of improved morale following the soft-skills training.
Hanford Builders means to show appreciation for the opportunity to bid on your project. Hanford Builders appreciates the opportunity to bid on your project.
“Prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated hen-house.” English teachers often emphasize the importance of suffixes in deciphering meaning and preparing for the TOEFL.
Absolutely, argues Helen Sword, in her controversial July 23, 2012, New York Times article ZombieNouns. Sword, the author of Stylish Academic Writing (Harvard University Press, 2016) defines nominalization as nouns composed by other parts of speech.
Although nominalization are heavily used by academics, lawyers, bureaucrats, and business writers, Sword argues that they can negatively influence readers too. Sword, who runs a University of Auckland writing center for faculty members, criticizes academic colleagues for overusing zombie nouns.
Therefore, Sword refers to nominalization as zombie nouns because they “cannibalize active verbs, suck the lifeblood from adjectives and substitute abstract entities for human beings” when used inappropriately. Sword provides several clear examples of an excessive number of nominalization negatively interfering in the comprehension in the length of the Times article.
“The ‘proliferation of nominalization in a discursive formation may be an indication of a tendency toward pomposity and abstraction’. Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.
According to Sword, the major difference between the two passages above is that the Biblical passage “speaks to our senses and emotions with concrete nouns (sun, bread), descriptions of people (the swift, the wise, men of understanding, men of skill) and punchy abstract nouns (race, battle, riches, time, chance).” As for Orwell’s version, Sword suggests it contains a high number of vague abstractions and zombie nouns : considerations, conclusion, activities, tendency, capacity, unpredictable, phenomena, success, failure, element. Orwell’s creative version of this evocative Biblical passage illuminates the problem with verbose, bureaucratic writing.
In my own university writing courses, I share both The ZombieNouns article and the TED-Ed video to illuminate the dangers the excessive use of nominalization. Finally, identifying nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs remains a core reading skill for our English students.
About the Author Eric H. Roth teaches international graduate students the pleasures and perils of academic writing and public speaking in English at the University of Southern California (USC). Easy English Times, an adult literacy newspaper, has published a monthly column, “Instant Conversation Activities,” based on the book since 2008.