My friend, Ray Walter, handed his dad, Hal, an article the other day about zombie nouns. Hal wondered if it was a hint. Knowing Ray, and Hal, it probably was. They're both quite eloquent. And very intellectual.
Being a writer, I immediately wondered if I use zombie nouns, and off I went to read Ray's article, written by University of Auckland teacher Helen Sword: Nominalizations Are Zombie Nouns. It appeared on The Opinion Pages at The New York Times on July 2:
"Take an adjective (implacable) or a verb (calibrate) or even another noun (crony) and add a suffix like ity, tion or ism. You've created a new noun: implacability, calibration, cronyism. Sounds impressive, right? ... I call them "zombie nouns" because they cannibalize active verbs, suck the lifeblood from adjectives and substitute abstract entities for human beings."
If you write, and you most likely do if you're returning to school, read Sword's article and don't become a zombie. Clear, crisp writing will always be more successful than pages filled with zombie nouns. They don't fool anybody.
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