Create Pictures in Your Writing with Strong Nouns | Duncan Koerber | Skillshare

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Create Pictures in Your Writing with Strong Nouns

teacher avatar Duncan Koerber, University Professor

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Introduction to the Course


    • 3.



    • 4.

      Weak Nouns


    • 5.



    • 6.

      Unclear Pronouns


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About This Class

The old saying goes that a "picture is worth a thousand words." But did you know that you can write pictures by choosing the right nouns – strong nouns

Take this short, practical course on how to upgrade your nouns from the author of Clear, Precise, Direct: Strategies for Writing (Oxford University Press, 2015). 

Most writers fall back on weak nouns when better options exist to communicate detailed images to the minds of readers. Upgrade your nouns today and plant images in the minds of readers. 

The objectives of this course are to help students understand why nouns matter to visual writing, distinguish between strong and weak nouns, and apply these principles in their own writing. No prerequisite knowledge or materials are required. 

Meet Your Teacher

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Duncan Koerber

University Professor


Dr. Duncan Koerber has taught writing and communication courses for the past 16 years at 8 Canadian universities to thousands of students.

Currently a full-time assistant professor at Brock University in Ontario, Canada, Duncan Koerber worked for nearly 10 years in reporting and editing roles for the London Free Press, the Mississauga News, and the University of Toronto Medium. He has freelanced for magazines and newspapers, including the Toronto Star.

Oxford University Press recently published his writing textbook, Clear, Precise, Direct: Strategies for Writing (2015). Available on Amazon, the book considers the seven most common errors (interfering factors) in writing and how to improve them (enhancing factors). His second book, Crisis Communicati... See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Overview: this course outlines the importance of the noun in sentences. It's the second most important word in a sentence after the verb the course examines the best kind of noun is the strong now strong downs. Air on one side of the spectrum on the right is the worst kind of now in the week. Now the course then explains a common replace from pronounce pronouns, and how unclear pronouns can cause confusion. What are my expectations for you? Please watch all the videos first, to understand the distinctions between the two types of now owns and also between now owns and pronounce. Then do the project. It's listed below this video. Try it out. It's important to try this out, or else you won't totally internalize the lessons. If you have any questions, send me a message in the discussion feature of this course. 2. Introduction to the Course: the most important word in a sentence is the verb. The second most important word in a sentence is the noun. So what is a noun? Well, you'll remember from your Grade three English class. It's a person, place or thing. So while verbs are kind of the muscle of writing noun czar, really, the bones of writing and most importantly, noun is can create detailed images in the reader's mind. So immediate immediate images if you choose the right now, just like verbs. Some downs are strong bones and some downs or week now, so you want to get as many strong downs into your writing as possible. And in this set of lectures, I'll show you how to do that. I'm also going to show you in this set of lectures, a problem that often comes up and that is the pronoun. The unclear pro noun and pronoun simply replaced announce, and sometimes we can overdo it with the pronouns and some things. We can't understand just what that pronoun is actually referring Teoh, and that creates concern. It annoys readers, and we need to make sure in most cases were using strong downs and not unclear or vague pronouns. And indeed, most good writing is extremely detailed. So this kind of technique concerned for announce helps you add that detail that readers absolutely enjoy. 3. Nouns: Let's now look at the images that certain kinds of now owns can create in your reader's mind and these air instantaneous images instant communication by using certain now owns so on the slide. The first noun is City, and what do we see in our mind's eye when we encounter this noun city? What about the noun dog? What comes to our mind? And what about car? What comes to your mind when I say the noun car? Well, generally, most of us come up with some general images of cities, dogs, cars from our personal experience, the city's we've been to the dogs. We've owned the cars we've driven. But let's look at what happens when you upgrade. These now owns. I call these week now owns. Let's upgrade them to another level of detail. What if we have the noun New York? Well, in our mind's eye, most of us have at some point whether we've not even visited New York. We know what New York looks like from so many pictures from the big events that have happened in New York City in our lifetimes. We can imagine that city right away, and that's really powerful detail. If you invoke the word New York, there's no explaining you have to dio. You do not have to describe New York to your readers now instead of dog, Let's say Kali, what do we see with Kali? Well, this kind of animal that's very different than the generic dog that we saw on a previous slide. You could put Chihuahua in there, and most people would see that tiny little dog as well. And I'm sure there are a lot of other breeds of dogs that would spark a really strong image in the reader's mind. Then, finally, instead of car, what if we invoke the very strong noun Ferrari? Well, right away we see that car, and I think we often see in our mind's eye red Ferraris. That's just the icon of the Ferrari brand is the red car. So those are three examples of how you can upgrade your now owns to something stronger to create that photographic image, and you want to make pictures with your writing and strong now is do that. They add detail. They had pictures. They had images so easily without needing to explain to the reader what the thing or the object of the person looks like an important kind of strong noun is the name. So certainly in fiction there are so many great names of famous characters, and they stick in our minds. So let's think of some of those. For example. Jay Gatsby, Romeo and Juliet, Pippi Longstocking, Captain Ahab, Harry Potter, Gollum, Big Brother, Lemuel Gulliver, Huck Finn. These air really unique names, and right away they remind us of that story. Maybe we read it as a child. Maybe we read it recently, and it also creates a lot of feelings surrounding those characters. So names are very powerful. And make sure that you get names, whether it's fiction, whether you're doing nonfiction such as journalism, whether you're doing business, writing on academic writing, even get names into your sentences. Another way to get now owns into your writing is to appeal to the senses. So when a previous set of lectures, I talked about how verbs can appeal to the five human senses, while strong now owns do the same. So on the slide I've listed some strong downs categorized by sense. So first we have the sense of sight and some noun Zehr like shine luster, glow, gleam, Flash view. What about the sense of smell? Well, you've got so many in this area, just a few are stink stench, odor, aroma, fragrance. How about touch? Well, there's punch hit, slap wallop, tap pressure for the sense of hearing you've got now is like Snap, crack, pop, knock, squeal, burp, bang! And these are so much fun to read out loud as I'm telling you these. And then finally, the sense of taste, their zest, flavor palate, salt, sugar, nibble. So when you're writing any kind of writing, not just fiction but also creative nonfiction, even journalism, think about getting some of these senses into your now owns. 4. Weak Nouns: in a previous lecture, I talked about how there are weak downs and then there are upgraded. Now, as we call those strong announce in some business writing and academic writing, there's often another kind of weak noun we could almost call it a dead noun, like dead verbs, and these are now owns that have t i o n Suffolk's. So at the end of the word of the root of the now they've got t i o n. So whenever you find yourself putting t i o n on a noun, stop for a second and think about it. You may have a really strong noun, but you are actually hurting it by adding that long ending. Now, sometimes these now owns or just at the root not very good now, as they don't provide any images. So let's look at some of these T I o N noun is on this slide. So here we've got formulation, hesitation, indentation, argumentation, insulation, mediation, observation, operation, publication, recitation, separation, confrontation, allocation adaptation. As I'm reading that they all sound the same because of the shun at the end. The t i o n. It just comes across as generic it comes across is very similar now. One thing to remember is while these have uses, so there are times when you want to say mediation. We're going to mediation. We are going to have an adaptation of that movie or something like that. Those air fine, but in moderation some people use these kinds of now is way too much, and they can way down sentences and paragraphs. Sometimes there are better options, So don't always think that you have to use these words. We just need to kind of look for alternatives. So here six examples are going to show you on this slide of sentences that have that t i o N Suffolk's on them on the key noun in the sentence. So the 1st 1 is. Arthur's recitation of the speech was wonderful. The 2nd 1 the boy had a confrontation with his parents. That evening, Alice created the indentation in the wall. The lawyers were successful at mediation between the two parties. The couple separation occurred at the end of the year, the CEO Haddon observation of falling share prices. Now these aren't the worst sentences in the world, but I think we can make them even better by getting back to the essence of these sentences . The actions in each case, whether that's the reciting, the confronting, the in, denting, the mediating, separating or the observing they all seem kind of distant. We didn't experience these actions in the moment that they occurred. It's almost like an after the fact mention of these actions in the form of now owns. Now readers love to experience actions that seem to happen in the very moment they're reading them, as if they're standing right there with the writer as the events in the writing actually unfold. But in these cases, some very strong verbs, like recite or confront have become really dead. Now, how do you fix this? Well, how about we just convert those T I o announce back to the verbs that they come from? So, for example, you could say Arthur recited the speech wonderfully. The boy confronted his parents that evening. Alice indented the wall. The lawyers successfully mediated the two parties. The couple separated At the end of the year, the CEO observed the falling share prices. I think these revised sentences of converting announced a verbs work better. They let us directly experience the actions. They were a bit distance in the long dead noun form, and also they avoid wordiness. So these air tighter sentences, they've been edited a bit. There's the shorter they get to the point. So my advice to you is simply to consider whether you truly need these long T. I. O N now owns in your writing. If you don't try revising them and getting back to the root verb, as I've done here, I think your readers will appreciate being more directly involved in the actions that you're describing. 5. Pronouns: dramatically speaking the companion to the noun. The counterpoint to the noun is the pro. Now I now pronounce simply replaces a noun. We use these when we don't want to repeat the noun, because sometimes over repetition of a noun can be grating on the reader. It can be annoying. So we throw in words like I you he, she they their them themselves. We are us, it itself, me, mine myself, him, his her one himself herself. These air just different forms. Different types of pronouns, replacing what are often strong now owns pronouns are fine as long as they're not overused . And as long as what's called the pronoun reference is very clear. So what is a pronoun reference in grammar terms? That's simply the idea of it. The pronoun is very closely located after the noun that it's referring to. So if you drew a line backwards from the pronoun, you would not too far. But behind that pronoun find the Now that it refers to, we need a very tight relationship between the noun and the pro now. So, for example, here some sentences on the slide. They show a very tight relationship. The team traded its greatest player. John grabbed his wallet and left. The cyclists rode their bikes to the race. The president reserved his question for later. There is no misunderstanding here as to what those pronouns refer to, because the noun came so soon before that thrown out arrived on the scene. There's a very small gap there. But remember, using a pronoun requires the reader to hold in their brains in their minds. The noun for a little bit, hopefully just a little bit before they get that Pronin and they make that mental connection. Now here's a sentence where that pronoun reference is very, very clear. Marion crashed her car. She was not hurt in the crash. The ambulance took her to the hospital. Her daughter Kylie, rushed over to see her. So there's no confusion. Her clearly means marrying in the first sentence. She obviously refers to marrying, cause that's the only woman that we've come across so far, and the her in the next sentence obviously refers to marry in, and then her again refers to Mary. And then we have another name, a noun Kylie, in the sentence. But of course, none of those pronouns refer to Kylie here, so that's fine. That's a great sentence. It's clear, straightforward 6. Unclear Pronouns: a big problem in writing, however, comes when this pronoun and decedent relationship, which is the noun on decedent, simply means what comes before breaks down. So that's when we don't know what the noun is that this pronoun is actually referring to. So, for example, let me give you this sentence. Sally and Mary spent the night at her house, so we think about what the antis ID int is. So that's what now comes before this pronoun. Well, the first thing we think is it's probably married because she's the closest person to the her pro now. But it could actually be Sally. Maybe it's Sally's house. So how do you correct this? And how do you correct any ambiguity in a pronoun noun reference? Well, why don't you just drop the now back in? So you could say Sally and Mary spent the night at Sally's house. Another example is somewhat humorous. This problem with pronounce and that is Napoleon sat on the horse Napoleon Junior just after losing the war, and wondered how much Josephine loved him. So what's the joke here? Well, that final pronoun him could refer to essentially to now is whether that's Napoleon or Napoleon Junior. And since Napoleon Jr is actually the closest now on to him, we could say that Josephine is in a kind of love triangle with Napoleon, the human being and, ah, horse. This may seem far fetched, but a lot of times when we have these pronoun and decedent problems, there are these points of laughter, points of jokes because of that unclear pro now. So what would you do with that? While you could simply change it to Napoleon sat on the horse Napoleon Junior, Just after losing the war, Napoleon wondered how much Josephine loved him. Here. There is no joke. It's him referring backwards to Napoleon. There's another problem with this pronoun and decedent situation, and that is when we use the generalized they they is a pronoun meaning plural. That means multiple people or things. So you could say, for example, in Newfoundland they used to have a lot of fish, or when someone breaks a bone, they have to have a cast put on. So in both of these sentences, if you drawn arrow back from they to find the noun while you have a problem, you have a grammatical problem. of number. So Newfoundland in the first example, which is before that pronoun they is singular. So there's only one Newfoundland. Yet the pronoun is plural, so that's a grammatical problem. And in the second sentence, someone is a singular human being, and they is plural. So if you draw the arrow back from they, you do not have a noun, for example, and you also have another pronoun that is actually singular someone. So why does this matter? What is this really specific? Pronin at the seeding thing caused any consternation for people. Well, it's not a huge problem, but if you're doing this a lot in your writing, readers have trouble following you. And if they're having trouble following you, they're losing faith in you as a writer. So it's not that your senses are awful. It's not that they're falling apart, that we a car might be falling in part of its breaking down. But there's something loose in the sentence it takes away from clarity. It takes away from sense of reliability of the sentence in the writer. Also, a lot of times people use pronouns rated this start of a sense, So I've argued in a previous lecture that we should always start sentences with the do er of inaction. So she did this. They did that. John did this, whatever. But sometimes people start sentences like this. It was an unparalleled boxing match at the arena tonight. There were many fans of the singer. It is an awful night for a wedding proposal. Well, if you try to draw, you're lying back from those pronouns to find the noun. You have nothing because actually, in the first and third sentences the noun that the pronouns referring to is actually after . And that's a problem. We have to wait to encounter what the noun is. And then there were We have a pronoun there that has no antecedent, and we have also a dead verb were. So how could you edit this? We could just say something like the boxing match at the arena tonight was unparalleled. You could also say the singer had many fans. You could also say the night is awful for a wedding proposal, So there's some very simple ways moving the doers of the action to the head of the sense to the start of the sentence so we don't have these unclear or vague pronounce. So keep this pronoun lesson in mind. And when you're going back and editing your work, look for those prone out to just make sure that references very tight to the now make sure there isn't down before that. If you want to change things, drop in and now and again and replace that pronoun and make it easier on the reader. I think also this lesson can help you to see your sentences in a relation ALS sense that words relate to other words in sentences. And this I for pronoun reference pronoun and decedent reference can help you develop that sense of objective editing of your sentences.