Beware of causing noun cluster pre-modification decoding and assimilation difficulties for your readers!

In Chapter 7, I discussed the discomfort caused to readers by excessive premodification. In that chapter, I warned generally about the discomfort caused by the presence of too many modifiers. In this chapter, I want to warn specifically about the difficulties caused by the use of nouns to pre-modify other nouns:

is achieved by straightforward key operation. (is achieved by straightforward operation of the key.) This stage of the project ect will be followed by control equipment selection

and purchase. (This stage of the project will be followed by selection and purchase of

control equipment.) had side-effects that necessitated treatment discontinuation. (necessitated discontinuation of treatment.) The problem will be water loss prevention. (The problem will be to prevent loss of water.)

Those four examples illustrate four ways in which pre-modification with nouns often causes confusion for readers:

• confusion because pre-modifying nouns are less explicit than post-modifying prepositional constructions;

• confusion because the first noun after a preposition looks as if it is the complement of the preposition;

• confusion because a noun (other than a proper noun) immediately following a transitive verb looks as if it is the direct object of that verb;

• confusion because a noun immediately following a part of the verb to be looks as if it is intended to be the complement of that verb.