In a certain context, I wanted to say that good designs make us feel like born with the abilities to interact with a software. So the idea is the user feels like a talent while using the software. I phrased my sentence this way:

The examples unfold that a good design is what makes us feel a natural in software interactions.

The word "natural" in this case is used as a noun rather than an adjective. I checked the dictionary and the meaning seems to fit the idea of a talent. However, I am not sure if my usage of the word natural is appropriate and conveys my idea or not. When read aloud, I find it sounds slightly awkward but I cannot figure out what's wrong.

Is my usage of the word natural here correct in this phrasing?

closed as too localized by FumbleFingers, Kit Z. Fox, Daniel, kiamlaluno, Mitch Feb 20 '12 at 22:30

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    Tangential to your question -- but unfold isn't a great choice of verb. Show, demonstrate, suggest, reveal, perhaps? – slim Feb 15 '12 at 17:11
  • I think you're stretching idiomatic usage to breaking point there. "He is a natural on the football pitch", sure, and there you could grammatically replace it by "expert" (albeit with some slight shift of meaning). Try doing that with your example, and you're dead in the water! The question is too localised. – FumbleFingers Feb 15 '12 at 17:13
  • @slim Thanks, I agree probably demonstrate is a better choice of verb than unfold. – xenon Feb 15 '12 at 17:21
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    @xEnOn: Expert simply implies having the ability now - it says nothing about how much of that was by birth/talent, and how much by effort/training. Natural means born with inbuilt ability, so it seems incongruous in your usage, since no-one is really born with a talent for using software. – FumbleFingers Feb 15 '12 at 17:26
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    @FumbleFingers "The only intuitive interface is the nipple." – slim Feb 16 '12 at 9:37

You could say:

... makes us feel like a natural ...

... and I think it works. There is a risk that the reader will suspect you of intending to use the adjective:

... makes us feel natural ...

But with like in there, I think it reads cleanly.

  • Thanks! This is clever. You're right, it reads more easily as a noun this way. – xenon Feb 15 '12 at 17:13
  • No good. If you change it to your second suggestion you've completely lost the "born talent" sense of OP's original intention. – FumbleFingers Feb 15 '12 at 17:15
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    @FumbleFingers The second quoted sentence isn't a suggestion. It's an illustration of what the reader might mistake him for intending. – slim Feb 15 '12 at 17:17
  • Oops! Sorry. I reversed the downvote but I can't bring myself to upvote because I'd like the question to be closed anyway. Which is presumably why I didn't give your text the attention I should have. – FumbleFingers Feb 15 '12 at 17:20
  • The only use of natural as a noun that I've seen involves either a gifted athlete or an African-American hairstyle. – robrambusch Feb 16 '12 at 3:15

He is a natural at something is a commonly-enough heard expression. It may or may not be grammatical, but is acceptable and suitable for your context.

The preposition is at and not in, though.

  • It's fine to use "a natural" with the "at something" implied. For example, first driving lesson, student makes first turn, instructor says "Well done - you're a natural!". I didn't read it as "a natural at software interactions". I read it as "a natural [at whatever it is you're doing] during software interactions". During is better than in, but in is adequate and I think that part is tangential to the question. – slim Feb 16 '12 at 9:32

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