© Damen, 2002

8. Noun Clusters.

Avoid clusters of nouns where one acts as an adjective for another: "bloodline succession," "succession line," "land and property matters." Instead, use prepositions to link the nouns: "succession through a bloodline," "a line of succession," "matters concerning land and property." The prepositions add clarity to the phrase—they show more fully how the nouns relate to one another—and the meaning of your words becomes more readily apparent.

Here are some noun clusters I've recently encountered in student papers. See if you can figure out what they mean, and how to restate them so that they're clearer:

war leader?
children rulers?
choosing skills?
warfare tactics?
administration abilities?
the Mithras religion?
feudalistic vassal pacts?
a physical line division?
a more culture description?
a low birthright status?
an overnight macho power thing?

Do you see why these phrases are imprecise? Can you rewrite them so that they speak to the reader more clearly? Try adding prepositions or turning the first noun into an adjective. If you can, you can see my point. If you can't, that's my point.

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Words and Word Choice


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