When To Use Abstract Nouns
As you’ve probably been taught, good writing means avoiding abstract nouns whenever possible. It’s sound advice — using concrete nouns and verbs simply lead to clearer, more effective writing.
However, abstract nouns do have their place. With some sentences, in fact, they can prove essential. One thing to note, though: a desire to sound more “academic” and “formal” isn’t a valid reason to rely on abstract nouns.
- Abstract nouns can be used to make references to a previous sentence. When referring to a protagonist’s previous actions in a story, for instance, it makes sense to write “these past decisions” or “these rash actions.” Same with writing “the previous arguments” to refer to the points laid out in a previous paragraph of an essay. In both cases, the use of abstract nouns may be valid if you’re discussing elements previously presented.
- Abstract nouns can lead to concision. There are some occasions when abstract nouns are just more concise than their concrete alternatives. For instance, it’s shorter to write “his documentation of the event,” rather than “what he documented during the event.”
- Abstract nouns can be a central concept to your sentence. While we don’t recommend these situations, they can happen. Timeless concepts like love, revolution and courage can be important elements to many writing topics, after all.