When you make a noun out of another word (usually a verb or an adjective) you are nominalising it. For example, by changing the sentence, ‘He educated his son’ to ‘he gave his son an education’, I am nominalising the word ‘educated’. Academic authors frequently use nominalisation (or should I say: ‘academic authors frequently nominalise’?). Nominalising is OK, but don’t overdo it. You want your writing to be stylish, not just correct – right? By minimising nominalisations, your writing will be more powerful and you’ll have a better chance of adhering to writing tip #1: Be concise.
Here are some more examples of nominalised verbs, with a better alternative:
They undertook an investigation (They investigated)
We must come to a decision about … (We must decide on … )
She gave the appearance of being sad (She appeared to be sad. OR: she looked sad.)
Adjectives can be nominalised too. Again, it can be OK to nominalise an adjective, but always ask yourself which version is stronger. For example:
The street had considerable length … OR … The street was long
In this instance, I prefer the latter.
About this blog
Through my experience as an editor, a reader and a book reviewer, I’ve noticed that some writing faults keep just popping up again and again. As an author, I’m especially aware of those writing crimes that I’m frequently tempted to commit myself. This series of brief tips addresses the common writing problems that I’ve encountered. Following them will help make your writing clear, accurate and stylish.