Mini-lesson: The importance of noun phrases in writing


Complex noun phrases are used by all good writers of English because of their efficiency in providing detail. Noun phrases allow writers to include a great deal of information without using too many words. It is important that you be able to recognize and use them in your writing to make it efficient, academic and ‘reader-friendly’. Most academic texts use a high percentage of complex noun phrases, so practice in constructing them will definitely help both your reading and your writing.
Look at the following:
  1. This ICOSA website is modern. It is interactive. It can be accessed by Hong Kong tertiary learners. The tertiary learners are interested in English independent learning.

This piece of writing does not ‘flow’ well. This is called ‘choppy’ writing because it contains several short, simple SVO (subject + verb + object) sentences, making it uncomfortable for the reader. This is a very basic and inefficient way of writing.

Now read this:
  [V]  
  1. This modern and interactive ICOSA website can be accessed by Hong Kong tertiary learners interested in English independent learning.
This one sentence uses two noun phrases (in red colour). It contains exactly the same information as in the first example, but flows much better. It is the noun phrases which make the writing more efficient and reader-friendly. Notice that noun phrases may appear on either or both sides of the verb.
Here are some other good examples of well-written sentences using noun phrases:
 [V] 
  • These highly educated and well qualified young people cannot find well-paid work offering medical insurance and other basic benefits.
 [V] 
  • This newly established minimum wage law has brought a great deal of criticism from many factions of society.
 [V] 
  • Possessing too many labor-saving machines can result in laziness, atrophy and a general lack of appreciation of the benefits of manual labour.

Now try constructing some complex noun phrases in the activity that follows.
Activity instructions

Re-type the bold-faced words in the correct order in the boxes below to make noun phrases that complete each sentence. The first one has been done for you.



  1. Example:

    modern / This / and / ICOSA / website / interactive several Hong Kong tertiary instructors to share interactive English language self-access materials with each other.


    Hint:
    This modern and…


    Hide hint.

    Answer:
    This modern and interactive ICOSA website


    Hide answer.

  1. main / The / purpose / the / site / of / ICOSA is to provide practice in all skill areas to students wanting to access English learning material independently.


    Hint:
    The main purpose…


    Hide hint.

    Answer:
    The main purpose of the ICOSA site


    Hide answer.

  2. This project / English / materials / self-access / for / language / sharing was planned in 2011 and started in 2012.


    Hint:
    This project for sharing… …materials


    Hide hint.

    Answer:
    This project for sharing self-access English language materials


    Hide answer.

  3. meaning / the / of / ICOSA /acronym / The is the ‘Inter-university Collaborative Online Self-Access’ project.


    Hint:
    The meaning of…


    Hide hint.

    Answer:
    The meaning of the acronym ICOSA / The meaning of the ICOSA acronym


    Hide answer.

  4. participating / institutions / tertiary / The / five / Hong Kong spent 3 months preparing… (continue in no. 5)


    Hint:
    The five participating…


    Hide hint.

    Answer:
    The five participating Hong Kong tertiary institutions


    Hide answer.

  5. analysis / needs / their / students / the / an / of / of for online self-access materials.


    Hint:
    …an analysis of…


    Hide hint.

    Answer:
    an analysis of the needs of their students


    Hide answer.

  6. the / existing / university / each / A / survey / of /materials / in was then completed to discover what materials were already available to meet those needs.


    Hint:
    A survey of the…


    Hide hint.

    Answer:
    A survey of the existing materials in each university


    Hide answer.

  7. suitable / met / materials / not / which / Needs / are / by are now being prioritized and new resources are being developed.


    Hint:
    Needs which are not…


    Hide hint.

    Answer:
    Needs which are not met by suitable materials


    Hide answer.

  8. repository / collection / for / materials / A / the / of has been set up for each institution to upload and share their resources.


    Hint:
    A repository for…


    Hide hint.

    Answer:
    A repository for the collection of materials


    Hide answer.

  9. for / indexing / A / convenient / system / of / materials / organization has also been put in place to provide convenience for users.


    Hint:
    A convenient indexing…


    Hide hint.

    Answer:
    A convenient indexing system for organization of materials


    Hide answer.

  10. construction / ICOSA / phrase / activity / This / noun is therefore the result of much discussion, preparation and hard work by the organizers and writers of the ICOSA team.


    Hint:
    This ICOSA noun…


    Hide hint.

    Answer:
    This ICOSA noun phrase construction activity


    Hide answer.


Source: http://hasald.wordpress.com/past-sessions/
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