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Worksheet 1, Excessive Nominalizations, 8 Exercises
Worksheet 2, Excessive Nominalizations, 16 Exercises

Worksheet 1 explains what a nominalization is and includes exercises to practice converting nominalizations to their verb or adjective forms. Worksheet 2 has sixteen additional exercises. If you would like the suggested answers and teaching tips, please see below.

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The Problem

Nominalizations in writing were addressed beautifully by the late Professor Joseph M. Williams, of the University of Chicago. He spent a great portion of his life examining the principles of clear writing. He distilled his teachings into a book, Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace, 9th ed., Pearson, 2007.

Nominalizations: A sentence may seem unclear to a reader because verbs and adjectives (words that describe nouns) are turned into nouns. In Williams's words, "A noun derived from a verb or adjective has a technical name: nominalization" (Williams, 38).

Avoid Making Nouns from Verbs

Take a look at the sentences below.

  • (a) A re-examination of the evidence led prosecutors to a reconsideration of the defendant's guilt.
  • (b) Prosecutors re-examined the evidence and reconsidered the defendant's guilt.
Most readers would say that sentence (b) is clearer than (a). The words re-examination and reconsideration are nouns. Generally, words that end in tion are nouns.

In Williams's terminology, these words are nominalizations.

Nominalizations and Their Verb Forms

The following table lists just a very few nominalizations and their corresponding verb forms.

Nominalization Verb Form
Analysis Analyze
Belief Believe
Comparison Compare
Conclusion Conclude
Determination Determine
Failure Fail
Reaction React
Suggestion Suggest

In general, choose the verb form over the nominalization. But be careful. Some nominalizations are useful and necessary. Use them prudently.

Nouns from Adjectives

The same principle applies with adjectives. Avoid turning an adjective, such as careless, into its corresponding nominalization, carelessness.

Avoid: His carelessness in driving caused a multi-car accident.

Prefer: His careless driving caused a multi-car accident.

Nominalization Adjective Form
Carelessness Careless
Difficulty Difficult
Intensity Intense

Worksheet 1, 8 Exercises

The following exercises are in the free PDF worksheets. The worksheets may be reproduced freely, and students must write out the complete, correct sentence.

  1. The steering committee raised an objection to the proposed parking garage north of the stadium.
  2. When the faculty senate has made a determination about the desirability of a lecture series, a proposal will be presented to the chancellor. (Hint. Perhaps we have ONE useful nominalization.)
  3. Negligence on the part of hospital workers was the reason for the failure of the kidney machine.
  4. Mercy Hospital made a decision to expand its geriatric facilities.
  5. It was the intention of the screening committee to interview all candidates face to face.
  6. The investor made an incorrect assumption about the volatility of Brazil’s emerging economy. (Some information might be missing in the original sentence. Did the investor think that the volatility of Brazil’s emerging economy was high or low? How can the meaning be made clearer?)
  7. The parole board did not give an explanation for the early release of such a dangerous inmate.
  8. It is my hope that you apply this material.

Worksheet 2, 16 Exercises

  1. Marie resented that her husband always took control of their children’s extracurricular activities.
  2. The guidance counselor made a suggestion that graduating seniors should submit early applications to the colleges of their choice.
  3. It is the judge’s recommendation that the children live with their maternal grandparents.
  4. When he plays soccer, Osman makes an effort to pass the ball to an open player.
  5. As soon as she picked us up from school, Aunt Jessie made a decision to take us to Disney World.
  6. It is the expectation of the judicial review board that the candidate answer all questions truthfully.
  7. The film director’s house has the appearance of a Hollywood movie set.
  8. Although she never carried it out, Frances made a promise to her mother that she would call every week.
  9. The critic E.M. Forster makes a distinction between round characters and flat characters.
  10. Teenagers sometimes feel that their parents cause them embarrassment.
  11. On his deathbed, the gangster made a confession about his theft of the Hope Diamond.
  12. It was Mayor Richards’s understanding that the bicycle path would be built with funding from the federal government.
  13. The scholar Jackson Rowley was of the opinion that excessive in-breeding of cats led to some strains having six toes.
  14. Because of the singer’s persistent denials of his drug addiction, a cancellation of the tour ensued.
  15. When Vincent made a declaration to me that he had a preference for comedy over drama, I laughed and expressed agreement with him.
  16. It is my suggestion that you engage in the application of these principles.

Nominalization Links

These links offer some excellent advice and clear examples on identifying and recasting nominalizations into their corresponding verb or adjective forms.

  • Zombie Nouns

    Helen Sword, from The University of Auckland, writes a lively editorial on using (or not using) nominalizations.

  • Dennis G. Jerz, Seton Hill University

    Professor Jerz provides a short, attractive page on nominalizations and their corresponding verb forms.


    Professor Jaffee offers a good definition, examples, and ways to make nominalized scientific writing more verbal, and thus easier to understand. Jaffee provides some of the best insights on nominalization on the web. This is a very good source.

  • Claremont Graduate University

    A very useful 2-page PDF on avoiding needless nominalizations.

  • Ken Bresler's "Just Say Know"

    Bresler's is probably the best and most comprehensive source of information on nominalizations available. He offers readers a lists, examples, and clear explanations. This is another goog source.