Nominalizations Are Zombie Nouns
Draft is a series about the art and craft of writing. 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. Sounds impressive, right? Nouns formed from other parts of speech are called nominalizations. Academics love them; so do lawyers, bureaucrats and business writers. The proliferation of nominalizations in a discursive formation may be an indication of a tendency toward pomposity and abstraction. The sentence above contains no fewer than seven nominalizations, each formed from a verb or an adjective. Writers who overload their sentences with nominalizations tend to sound pompous and abstract. Only one zombie noun – the key word nominalizations – has been allowed to remain standing. At their best, nominalizations help us express complex ideas: perception, intelligence, epistemology. Elena Giavaldi Most major scientific theories rebuff common sense.
Related: Lexical Change
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