Nouns formed from other parts of speech are called nominalizations. Academics love them; so do lawyers, bureaucrats and business writers. I call them “zombie nouns” because they cannibalize active verbs, suck the lifeblood from adjectives and substitute abstract entities for human beings:
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. Yet it fails to tell us who is doing what. When we eliminate or reanimate most of the zombie nouns (tendency becomes tend, abstraction becomes abstract) and add a human subject and some active verbs, the sentence springs back to life: Writers who overload their sentences with nominalizations tend to sound pompous and abstract.
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
IMPLACABILITY: Academic writing expert Helen Sword takes to the (digital) pages of the NYT to decry the popularity of what she deems "zombie nouns":
Posted by Adam at 8:17 AM