Saturday, February 10, 2007

Unlink That Noun Chain!

Noun chains (i.e., a succession of nouns in a sentence) create confusion even for the most informed of readers. Nearly every technical field is guilty of perpetuating noun chains. Three examples from different fields appear below. Notice how the second drafts of each improve the original by either (1) deleting unnecessary words or (2) adding clarifying phrases.

Confusing: The Firm has instituted a customer service department monitoring initiative pilot project.
Clearer: The Firm has instituted a pilot project for the monitoring initiative created by the customer service department.

Confusing: This is the Quality Assurance asbestos exposure risk analysis completion report.
Clearer: The Quality Assurance group presents this risk analysis completion report on asbestos exposure.

Confusing: Judge Judy recommended that we provide a public service community information dissemination program.
Clearer: Judge Judy recommended that we provide a public service by establishing a program to disseminate community information.

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