Beware zombie nouns!
Lesson created by Lorena Barba using
Video from TED-Ed YouTube Channel
When you make a noun out of other parts of speech, you create a "nominalization". This TED-Ed video is based on Helen Sword's NYT op-ed of July 23, 2012, where she calls these nominalizations "zombie nouns" (much more memorable!). Her reasoning is that zombie nouns "cannibalize active verbs and suck the lifeblood from adjectives." Zombie nouns make reading dull and difficult. So beware!
Additional Resources for you to Explore
This lesson was based on an op-ed Helen Sword wrote for the New York Times entitlted Zombie Nouns (published July 23, 2012). How do you improve your writing by removing nominalizations? The UNT Writing Lab has a useful how-to guide with examples (PDF). Precise Edit's Blog post of Jan. 17, 2012 explains the bad effects of zombie nouns: increased clutter, increased noun-to-verb ratio, hard-to-read sentences, tedious prose. So when should you use them? Only if it makes the sentence more concise, or to emphasize a main idea, or convey a complex concept that is in common usage (like perception, intelligence, election). John Wilkins at OSU also suggests their use to replace an awkward "the fact that", or as a subject referring to a previous sentence: e.g., "These arguments are all baseless." Nominalizations often come hand-in-hand with passive voice (see, e.g. Smarthinking Writer's Handbook). Both make your writing more difficult and tedious!
When writing, let verbs guide you!