Revision Notes for Sentences

Like each paragraph, each sentence should tell one story. The points below describe how to tell an effective story.

1. Keep the subject and verb close together; in addition, they should appear early in the sentence (within the first six to seven words).

2. Use 'action verbs' (transitive verbs in the active voice and intransitive verbs), i.e., the grammatical subject should perform the action in the verb whenever possible. Transitive passive verbs, however, may sometimes be necessary to maintain coherence and for other reasons. Use 'to be' verb forms sparingly and only when action is inappropriate. Consider this example.

3. Don't bury the action in abstract nouns (nominalizations) unless you have good reason. The modifier 'unless you have good reason' applies throughout.

4. Eliminate unnecessary words.

5. Avoid prepositional phrase strings (compound prepositional phrases).

6. Present only one main idea in each sentence, with an occasional supporting idea in a dependent clause. Information to be emphasized should be limited to one idea and should appear at the end of the sentence - see cohesion.

7. Although you must use subordinate (= dependent) clauses, you should deliver the most important information in the independent clause. Learn to rapidly identify independent and dependent clauses. When you delete everything but the subject and verb of the independent clause, that subject and verb should convey information. Use dependent clauses sparingly.

8. Use parallel structure: express similar things in similar ways.

9. Avoid prefabricated expressions.