Using nominal groups is a way of making your writing sound more precise, concise and complex. It is a way of condensing the maximum amount of information down into as small a space as possible. Many of you will already do this unconsciously; however it is useful to make it clear what a nominal group is so that you can use it intentionally in your creative writing coursework.
This is an example of a sentence that does not use nominal groups. The high number of verbs and the fact that it is just a series of simple sentences joined together makes it sound childish and simple:
I was a school boy and I was thin and I was fourteen years old and I was secretive.
To make our writing sound more complex and more formal we need to try and get rid of all of the information that is contained in the simple sentences and include it all in one big noun. The name for a big noun is a nominal group:
I was a small, thin and secretive fourteen year old school boy.
Note how much more complex, formal and adult this sounds.
However we can’t just include the information in any order. The classifier must come right before the noun for the sentence to sound correct. The classifier is the kind of thing the noun is – e.g. is it a school boy or an altar boy. The classifier can also be what the noun is made of e.g. a tombstone made of sandstone is a sandstone tombstone.
The rest of the adjectives, i.e. ‘thin’ ‘small’ and ‘secretive’ can be in any order, but must come before the classifier.
We can also add a relative clause to give more detail about the noun. The relative clause always come after the noun. A relative clause is a clause that starts with who or which. For example:
I was a small, thin and secretive fourteen year old school boy who passionately loved football.
Things to Remember: