A Further Note on Nominalizations


Linking Verbs and Hidden Adjectives
 
You'll remember that we can nominalize adjectives as well as verbs. This means that when you revise nominalizations you will turn some of them into adjectives rather than verbs. So we have to complicate our advice about them just a bit.


Take another look at this excerpt from example #8 (characters are CAPITALIZED, verbs are underlined, and nominalizations are boldfaced):
 
a. The absence of a feeling of affiliation may be a second major contributor to low parental involvement. A sense of alienation may generate feelings of intimidation or anger, which engenders such high levels of discomfort and unconfidence at meetings, compounded by the presence of TEACHERS, GUIDANCE COUNSELORS, ADMINISTRATORS, and perhaps even PSYCHOLOGISTS, that future visits to school are discouraged.


b. PARENTS may also fail to become involved when THEY do not feel affiliated with the school. When PARENTS feel like outsiders, THEY may become either intimidated or angry. When THEY attend a school meeting and confront a conference room full of TEACHERS, GUIDANCE COUNSELORS, ADMINISTRATORS, and perhaps even PSYCHOLOGISTS, THEY may become so unconfident and uncomfortable that THEY feel discouraged and may not return to the school.
 
When we revise "a" according to LRS principles, the character "parents" becomes the subject of our sentences. When we put this character up front, a few of our nominalizations &endash; and only a few &endash; turn into active verbs:
 
the absence of a feeling ---> THEY do not feel

future visits ---> THEY. . . may not return
 
We did indeed add some additional verbs to the passage: to become, do not feel, feel, may become, may become, feel. But these verbs are all verbs of feeling and becoming – in other words, they're linking verbs.


Because this passage talks so much about feelings, we had to change the first version's nominalizations into adjectives rather than verbs (characters are CAPITALIZED, verbs are underlined, and adjectives are italicized ):
 
b. PARENTS may also fail to become involved when THEY do not feel affiliated with the school. When PARENTS feel like outsiders, THEY may become either intimidated or angry. When THEY attend a school meeting and confront a conference room full of TEACHERS, GUIDANCE COUNSELORS, ADMINISTRATORS, and perhaps even PSYCHOLOGISTS, THEY may become so unconfident and uncomfortable that THEY feel discouraged and may not return to the school.

 
 
Although in some contexts nominalizations like "affiliation" and "intimidation" could be changed into verbs instead of adjectives, that wouldn't have made much sense here ("Parents feel they do not affiliate with the school").


You now have two additional points to remember about nominalizations:


1. Problematic nominalizations may hide within them not actions which should be verbs, but conditions which should be adjectives.


2. If your story seems not to have a strong action but instead to be centered on feeling, being, becoming, growing, appearing, seeming, smelling, looking, making, or sounding, then when you revise you will probably change your nominalizations into adjectives.