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Noun Strings

Translating noun strings from English into other languages can be a very challenging experience!

If readers have trouble "unpacking" noun strings in English, imagine how hard it can be to convey the same information in other languages.

A noun string is a group of nouns strung together, such as:

Draft laboratory animal rights protection regulations

The nouns in a string often seem to modify each other. The problem is that it is often difficult to determine the relationship between the nouns. Technically, clustering nouns turns all nouns but the last one into adjectives.

A tip to understand noun strings is to read them from the end backward. That, however, is not ideal because it is the writer's job to make the meaning clear to readers — and not vice versa.

In medical writing, for instance, there must be no room for ambiguity. Thus, noun strings should be avoided at all costs.

According to PlainLanguage.Gov, readability suffers when three nouns follow in succession. That is why it is not recommended to write strings containing four or more nouns.

Therefore, we could rewrite the example above like this:

Draft regulations to protect the rights of laboratory animals

Whether you read/write in English or translate from English into another language, do you also struggle with noun strings?

Share your experience and examples in the comments below!


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