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noun chain

This article is about noun chain — enjoy your reading!

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  Ed Good  —  Grammar Tips
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These days writers write long chains of nouns that befuddle the reader. A noun chain is a string of nouns, some acting as noun modifiers and one finally serving the noun function in the sentence. The expression noun chain is, itself, a noun chain.

We see these structures in the military, in the sciences, in the law, indeed all over the place. Good writers avoid them like the plague. You can get a noun chain under control by moving the noun that performs the noun role to the front. Then add any necessary prepositional or verbal phrases to smooth out the expression. Here's an example, with its cure:

Noun chains create noun chain reader strangulation problems.

Now, the fix:

Noun chains create problems that tend to strangle the reader.

Sure, the fix requires more words. But the reader doesn't have to wait to the end of the noun chain to find out that noun chains create problems.

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1 Comment
  • Natalie Buddo
    Natalie Buddo
    don't good writers also avoid clichés like 'avoid like the plague'? ;)
    LikeReply 24 years ago


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