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Avoid noun strings

The bulk of government and technical writing uses too many noun strings, or groups of nouns “sandwiched” together. Readability suffers when three words that are ordinarily separate nouns follow in succession. Once you get past three, the string becomes unbearable.

Technically, clustering nouns turns all but the last noun into adjectives. However, many users will think they’ve found the noun when they’re still reading adjectives, and will become confused.

Bring these constructions under control by eliminating descriptive words that aren’t essential. If you can’t do that, open up the construction by using more prepositions and articles to clarify the relationships among the words.

Don’t say Say
Underground mine worker safety protection procedures development Developing procedures to protect the safety of workers in underground mines
Draft laboratory animal rights protection regulations Draft regulations to protect the rights of laboratory animals
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s automobile seat belt interlock rule The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s interlock rule applies to automotive seat belts


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