Clear Technical Writing
Clear Phrasing

Stifling Nouns

Nouns that end in -tion, -ment, or -ance are often formed from verbs.

imagine → imagination

enjoy → enjoyment

perform → performance

These abstract nouns, or nominalizations, name things that exist due to the activity described in the underlying verb. In a way, these nouns are stifled versions of verbs.


[(imagine!)ation]


[(enjoy!)ment]


[(perform!)ance]

Clarity can be yours if you release the vigor of these verbs.

Vigor strategy 1: Use an infinitve

We need the test results for the completion of the project.

We need the test results to complete the project.

Both end in prepositional phrases, but the second one is easier to read and understand.

Vigor strategy 2: Use a gerund

Your vibration problem will be eliminated by the replacement of the controler.

Your vibration problem will be eliminated by replacing the controler.

The second version is more engaging.

Vigor strategy 3: Try both

In our analysis we wanted to avoid the appearance of bias.

In our analysis we wanted to appear unbiased.

In our analysis we wanted to avoid appearing biased.

You decide which version fits better with what you are writing.

Edit your writing by underlining stifling nouns.

Your research has led to new techniques for the interpretation of two-photon absorption. You developed a new method for the measurement of molar absorptivity. Acceptance of Beer's law leads us directly to the linear relationship between concentration and absorbance.

Lesson: Stifling Nouns
Module: Clear Phrasing
Course: Clear Technical Writing