Are there good reasons to use, e.g., "customer relationship management solution" over "solution for customer relationship management"?

I understand that in certain contexts clusters of nouns, such as in the first example, can increase ambiguity if the adjectives aren't compounded accordingly. The preposition in the latter example reduces the ambiguity by expressing the relationship the subject, the solution, and its modifiers, customer relationship management. Are there other reasons that one might want to use a prepositional phrase over stacking, and hyphenating, adjectives?

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    You should be clear about what you want to say: whatever way you order it, it comes across as meaningless buzz-speak. Why do you need 'solution'? That's what 'management' means. Jul 22 at 22:57
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    Those are noun adjuncts, not adjectives.
    – alphabet
    Jul 22 at 22:58
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    Presumably you use the initialism CRM liberally, and you would never say solution for CRM. If you want to use the prepositional phrase, I would use different words, e.g.: solution for managing your customer relationships. Jul 23 at 1:00
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    My opinion: your stack is at the limit for parsing after one read. One word longer and it would force many a reader to go "Huh?" and reread it. Even hyphens won't cure that overload. Thus, divide and conquer. Jul 23 at 2:08
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    Typically, in IT you would likely get: CRM solutions where CRM is a well-known acronym. IT always uses acronyms for a lot of functionalities, features, etc.
    – Lambie
    Jul 23 at 17:49

3 Answers 3


When your audience is native speakers of English who respond with a shudder to stacking alla customer relationship management solution, you should opt for solution for customer relationship management. That's pragmatic, not grammatical, advice.

I don't mean to imply that all native speakers of English will dislike such "stacking", but some will wish you had chosen a less "clunky" and potentially ambiguous form.

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    Jul 23 at 0:40

If you abbreviate "customer relationship management" to "CRM," I think most would agree that "a CRM solution" is preferable to "a solution for CRM," the latter being unnecessarily verbose. Moreover, there is certainly nothing grammatically incorrect about "a customer relationship management solution."

To it does sound quite bad to combine that many noun adjuncts. But this is purely a matter of taste.


It would be easier to judge which of your two alternatives is the better choice if we had the context in which the words are embedded and the intended audience of the text.

That said, "noun stacks" or "noun strings" such as "customer relationship management solution" are generally discouraged by style guides. For example, The Oxford Guide to Plain English (p79) states in the section Untying noun strings:

In most well-written sentences, nouns tend not to be next to each other. ...when they are eventually bundled together by an unthinking author, they often mate and spawn that loathsome love-child of business writing, the noun string. Here are a few such:

  • community capacity enhancement initiative
  • Employeee Job Consultation Scheme


Each of the suggested improvements involved expanding the phrase to include a preposition.

The following extract is from plainlanguage.gov, "An official website of the United States government":

Avoid noun strings

The bulk of government and technical writing uses too many noun strings, or groups of nouns “sandwiched” together. Readability suffers when three words that are ordinarily separate nouns follow in succession. Once you get past three, the string becomes unbearable.

Technically, clustering nouns turns all but the last noun into adjectives. However, many users will think they’ve found the noun when they’re still reading adjectives, and will become confused.

Bring these constructions under control by eliminating descriptive words that aren’t essential. If you can’t do that, open up the construction by using more prepositions and articles to clarify the relationships among the words.


So again, the advice is to expand the string by adding a preposition.

As to "customer relationship management solution", if your audience is likely to know about CRM, then you may be able to leave the phrase alone or write "customer relationship management (CRM) solution".

But for anyone who does not know this term, the meaning is potentially ambiguous. For example, it could be a solution to the management of the relationship between customers.

The avoidance of ambiguity should be a primary goal of every writer.

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