#AskDrEditor: Borrowing fresh eyes for your academic writing

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My editing advice column, Ask Dr. Editor, is now available through UniversityAffairs.ca. The seventh Ask Dr. Editor column describes how to use three of my favourite free online algorithms to support your editing processes: “Borrowing Fresh Eyes for Your Academic Writing.”

Have a question you want me to answer? Contact me or ask me on Twitter at @lertitia.

#AskDrEditor: Your Reader is a Little Bit Drunk

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My editing advice column, Ask Dr. Editor, is now available through UniversityAffairs.ca. The second Ask Dr. Editor question comes from a faculty member who isn’t sure how to advise her trainees as they write their job application materials.

Have a question you want me to answer? Contact me or ask me on Twitter at @lertitia.

#AskDrEditor: Getting “is” right

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My editing advice column, Ask Dr. Editor, is now available through UniversityAffairs.ca. The first Ask Dr. Editor question comes from a researcher who can’t figure out how to conjugate a verb in a tricky sentence in the lay summary of her grant application. New articles will be posted monthly.

Have a question you want me to answer? Contact me or ask me on Twitter at @lertitia.

Words to watch for: zombie nouns

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“The proliferation of nominalizations in a discursive formation may be an indication of a tendency toward pomposity and abstraction.”

In her New York Times essay and its associated TED talk, Helen Sword terms “nominalizations” — that is, nouns that contains within them shorter verbs, adjectives, or other nouns — “zombie nouns” because they “cannibalize active verbs, suck the lifeblood from adjectives and substitute abstract entities for human beings.”

Academics, we’re told, love zombie nouns; that may be because academics are frequently concerned with abstract concepts, or it may be because we all like the idea of a reinvigorated, reanimated, living dead thing (can you say, “revise and resubmit”?).

A nominalization or “zombie noun” can often be recognized by an ending such as:

  • -able
  • -ance
  • -ation
  • -ency
  • -ian
  • -ion
  • -ism
  • -ity
  • -ment
  • -ness
  • -sion

Zombie nouns are a problem when they render your writing more abstract than it needs to be. So how can you talk about an abstract concept — say, participation, or perception, or relationships — without letting the zombie hoards deaden your writing?

Continue reading “Words to watch for: zombie nouns”