Vocabulary: Prefer the concrete to the abstract

(Source: The Art of Readable Code by Dustin Boswell
and Trevor Foucher; published by O'Reilly Media)
From The King's English, by Henry Watson Fowler and Francis George Fowler:


Prefer the concrete word to the abstract. 

1. Abstract expression and the excessive use of nouns are almost the same thing. 
2.The cure consists very much, therefore, in clearing away the noun rubbish. 
Nouns in the faulty sentence examples below are underlined. The sentence or phrase which follows in parenthesis is a suggested correction using fewer nouns.
The general poverty of explanation as to the diction of particular phrases seemed to point in the same direction.—Cambridge University Reporter. (It was perhaps owing to this also that the diction of particular phrases was often so badly explained.)
The signs of the times point to the necessity of the modification of the system of administration.—Times. (It is becoming clear that the administrative system must be modified.)
No year passes now without evidence of the truth of the statement that the work of government is becoming increasingly difficult.—Spectator. (Every year shows again how true it is that...)
The first private conference relating to the question of the convocation of representatives of the nation took place yesterday.—Times. (on national representation)
There seems to have been an absence of attempt at conciliation between rival sects.—Daily Telegraph. (The sects seem never even to have tried mutual conciliation.)
3. Zeal, however, must not outrun discretion in changing abstract to concrete. 
Officer is concrete, and office abstract; but we do not promote to officers, as in the following quotation, but to offices—or, with more exactness in this context, to commissions.
Over 1,150 cadets of the Military Colleges were promoted to officers at the Palace of Tsarskoe Selo yesterday.—Times.

Pin It button on image hover