Untangle confusing noun strings to make your meaning clearer

Eleanor Meecham | April 13, 2016

We all know what a noun is, right? It’s a word that names a thing — whether concrete (like ‘table’ or ‘apple’) or abstract (like ‘project’ or ‘idea’).

A ‘noun string’ is several nouns or adjectives (describing words) all in a row. Every word in the row adds to the meaning of the final noun. Here are some examples:

response performance problem

human resource development project

draft native flora protection regulations

single comb leghorn pathogen free chickens

real time ultrasonographic blood flow detection techniques

pre-approved credit card credit limit increase acceptance form

As you can see, the longer the noun string, the harder it is to read and the less sense it seems to make. If you care about your reader, you’ll avoid writing long noun strings.

Untangle noun strings to help your reader

Untangling noun strings is easy:

  1. Reorder the string, starting with the word on the right-hand end
  2. Change at least one of the nouns to a verb (an action word)
  3. Add any little words you need so that everything makes sense

Check out some examples

The verbs are in bold.

people’s rights promotion rally
rally to promote people’s rights

healthy eating education programme
programme to educate people about eating healthily

university student health and wellbeing monitoring scheme
scheme to monitor the health and wellbeing of university students

independent child school travel safety improvement report
report on improving the safety of children travelling independently to school

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