Yet academic writers frequently make their text hard to read by seeding it liberally with abstract nouns. These are nouns that express an idea, quality or state rather than an object you experience with your senses. ‘Transportation’ is an abstract noun. ‘Buses, coaches and cars’ are concrete nouns; you can touch, see, hear and smell them – I haven’t tried tasting.
Here’s an example:
The deposition of fish scales in the geological record over the last 1,600 years shows that sardine populations off the US West Coast have exhibited fluctuation – natural cycles of abundance each lasting some 50–70 years.
If we turn the abstract nouns into verbs, the sentence becomes shorter, more readable and no less convincing:
Fish scales deposited in the geological record over the last 1,600 years show that sardine populations off the US West Coast have fluctuated in natural cycles of abundance each lasting some 50–70 years.
Replacing abstract nouns with their equivalent verbs often injects energy into a sentence and usually makes it more readable. Why not try this when you next edit your work?
8 November 2018
Always check your writing for over-long sentences and insert a full stop.
Don’t make your reader sweat – be precise about what you’re talking about.
Connect with your writerly self and try thinking about your writing in the way that professional writers do.