Nominalisation

As a student, whether at high school or a college, you have to do a lot of writing. A lot of the time, you’re going to be marked on it. And let’s be honest, you probably don’t put all that much effort into your essays, reports and reflections. I know many people, and you may be one of these, or know some who are, who just run a spell check in Word. For most, this isn’t enough.

Not many people can write perfectly on the first try, and it is unreasonable to expect to. That is why you need to leave time to rewrite, but we’ll get to that another time. But what is this “rewrite”? There are many things that need to be worked with when going over a draft. Today, we’ll be looking at nominalisation.

Let’s get started then. Nominalisation essentially exchanges all the verbs in your text for nouns. So, to nominalise the previous sentence, we use “is the exchange of all” instead of “exchanges all”. The sentence would then read: nominalisation is essentially the exchange of all verbs in your text for nouns. See, in that phrase, the only verb is “is”.

The first thing you probably noticed was that it was a few words longer; eleven, in comparison to thirteen. While this doesn’t make much of a difference in one sentence, in long papers or essays, it could make quite a difference. Using this sentence as a basis, it’s an 18.18% increase when you nominalise your work. Of course, this could be either helpful or prohibitive, depending on the maximum and minimum word counts.

Another thing that you may have picked up on is that this sentence is passive, where as the original was active. Active voice is most useful when writing creative work, as it is easier to read, therefore engaging the reader more. On the other hand, passive voice asserts more authority over the reader. It seems more intelligent to use passive voice in your academic writing.

Which brings us to the final point in this post. What nominalisation will do for you. Nominalisation is one of those things you do to make yourself seem smarter than you actually are. It does this by separating the action and the subject. Your text has no need for action. What it wants are concepts and ideas.  Exchanging is an action; the exchange is a concept. That is really what you need to find when looking to nominalise your work; actions.

The best way to go about this is to think about it while you’re writing. When I was first introduced to nominalisation, it played on my mind every time I sat down with a pen. Or rather, a keyboard. As I compare two texts, one written before, and one after learning about nominalisation, I can see my writing has improved. Or at least, it appears to have. It is my hope that you incorporate this into your next essay, and see what it can unleash.

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About Katie Walker

Hey, I'm a student. I'm into web development, so currently I'm working on my blog, a few Tumblr themes, and a few web apps for various purposes. It's exciting stuff.

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