Thursday, June 5, 2014
“Eliminate zombie nouns,” advises Bryan Garner in the May 2014 issue of the Student Lawyer. Garner refers to what many call “nominalizations,” that is, verbs changed into cumbersome noun forms. He calls them “zombie nouns” because they are “essentially both dead and deadening.” For example, “make a contribution” is less lively than “contribute,” and “have a discussion about the issues” is clunkier than “discuss the issues.” Garner urges, “To liven up the sentence, give it action.” He also advises students to minimize the passive voice, offering guidelines on how to identify it. He then provides an example heavy with zombie nouns and the passive voice, which he then revises it to make it more readable.