Nominalization in Legal Writing

You cannot avoid all nominalizations. Some nominalizations do not mean the same thing as the corresponding verbs of a word. Don`t worry about “leaving” nominalization – in the context of notifying your employer that you are leaving your job. Saying “I quit” is easy to understand and shorter than “I told my employer I was quitting my job.” Nominalization occurs when a writer transforms a perfectly good verb, adjective, or adverb into a noun. Each of the following sentences contains a verb, adjective, or adverb that has been “noun.” To contextualize the benefits of replacing “zombie names” with their more powerful counterparts, I`ve reprinted two passages below, both from a memo assignment my students wrote last fall. The first passage contains six (italic) nominalizations, most of which were taken directly from the view that the dominant rule regarding alliances envisaged not competing with each other. Garner`s Modern American Usage defines nominalizations as “verbs converted into nouns.” Garner`s The Winning Brief describes buried verbs in more detail: “A `buried verb` is not really a verb. It is a noun created by a verb – the verb was buried in the longer noun. “[iv] If you are not familiar with the concept of `blacklisting` editing, I invite you to read my column on this topic in the November 2020 issue of North Carolina Lawyer. To help you identify and eliminate nominalizations in your own writing, I offer this list of some of the most common nominalizations and their most powerful verbal counterparts. An easy way to improve your writing is to avoid nominalization. A nominalization is a grammatical medium that transforms verbs into nouns. For example, nominalization can and should be “consider” “consider”. “Take precautions” can and should be “make arrangements”. The first and third sentences of the revision contain contractions which, when used sparingly, are perfectly acceptable in the legal literature and even more acceptable in everyday writing. In the second sentence, To prepare for cleaning, nominalization is replaced in preparation for our recall (is refresher even a word?). In the third movement, the active voice, which you are not allowed to keep in your parking lot, is replaced by the passive voice / nominalization, the garage is not intended to store objects.

In the fourth movement, the typo is corrected and the active voice is replaced by the passive voice. Here are some other standard legal terms that you often don`t need to change from nouns to verbs: Here are some common concepts and substitutes you can use. What about the word information? Some nominalizations simply do not need to be changed to verbs. You don`t need to skew the sentence just to eliminate a nominalization if it`s a common word or a standard legal term. The general way to create a nominalization, as well as an indication that you use one, is: I can think of two nominalizations that I should pay close attention to. If you shorten “possession of” to “possess,” you still seem pretentious. Try “have”. One of the reasons nominalizations are common in lawyers` writings may be that they are common in judicial opinions.

As one colleague explained, “Legal drafters tend to imitate the language and structure of writing in judicial opinions, and legal opinions tend to contain a lot of nominalizations. Law professors are not out of the woods either; Academic articles are full of them. Based on the examples of legal writing from which new legal writers learn to write, they mistakenly assume that the nominalizations seem official and legal. This is how a new generation of nominalizers was born. [ii] Read and edit these sentences. Decide if eliminating nominalizations will make the sentence stronger and perhaps shorter and clearer. Next, take a look at how we revised them. Now go back to your document and find nominalizations that you can revise into powerful verbs. [iii] Nominalization: Don`t abuse abstract nouns (prefer living verbs instead), Jerz`s Literacy Weblog, But look at what happens when you remove the nominalizations: I have come to the conclusion that Dr. Franklin`s commitment not to compete is probably unenforceable because it goes against public policy. Obligations not to compete restrict trade and are therefore subject to rigorous scrutiny.

To be enforceable, such agreements must be in writing and duly signed, based on valuable consideration reasonably necessary to protect legitimate business interests, be appropriate in time and territory, and not otherwise be contrary to public policy. So why do legal drafters use so many nominalizations that contain -ion words? The winning brief says we can blame Jeremy Bentham: in short, nominalizations destroy the clarity and conciseness of your legal writing. So clear up your muddy thoughts and take an axe from buried verbs. If you do, you`ll notice an immediate improvement in your writing. In a popular YouTube video on the subject, Helen calls the nominalizations of swords “zombie names” because they “consume the living. They cannibalize active verbs, they suck the vital blood of adjectives, and they replace abstract entities with abstract entities. [i] And as Sword`s video acknowledges, lawyers are among the most prolific (along with academics, bureaucrats, and business journalists).

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