Ways to Structure Effective Sentences
• Use lists.
• Put new and important information at the end of the
sentence.
• Choose an appropriate sentence length.
• Focus on the "real" subject.
• Focus on the "real" verb.
• Express parallel elements in parallel structures.
• Use modifiers effectively.
Chapter 11. Drafting and Revising Effective Sentences
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Guidelines for Creating Effective Lists
• Set off each listed item with a number, a letter, or a
symbol (usually a bullet).
• Break up long lists.
• Present the items in a parallel structure.
• Structure and punctuate the lead-in correctly.
• Punctuate the list correctly.
Chapter 11. Drafting and Revising Effective Sentences
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Creating effective lists
 Set off each item
 Break up long lists:
Tool kit:
-hand saw
-hack saw
-compass saw
-box wrench
-socket wrench
Tool kit:
- Saws
- hand saw
- hack saw
- compass saw
-Wrenches
- box wrench
- socket wrench
Chapter 11. Drafting and Revising Effective Sentences
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 Use parallel structure
Here is the sequence we plan to follow:
1. construction of the preliminary proposal
2. do library research
3. interview with the vice president
4. first draft
Here is the sequence we plan to follow:
1. write the preliminary proposal
2. do library research
3. interview the vice president
4. write the first draft
Chapter 11. Drafting and Revising Effective Sentences
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 Use correct punctuation
The new facility will offer three advantages:
- lower leasing costs
- easier commuting distance
- a larger pool of potential workers
The new facility will offer three advantages:
- The leasing costs will be lower.
- The commuting distance will be shorter.
- The pool of potential workers will be larger.
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Put new and important info at
the end of a sentence
The joint could fail under special
circumstances.
Under special circumstances, the joint
could fail.
Chapter 11. Drafting and Revising Effective Sentences
© 2004 by Bedford/St. Martin's
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Choose Appropriate Sentence Length
• Avoid overly long and overly short sentences.
• Long sentences show relationships between ideas.
Short sentences provide emphasis.
• Focus on the “real” subject.
The use of this method would eliminate the problem.
This method would eliminate the problem.
There is no alternative for us except to withdraw the
product.
We have no alternative except to withdraw the
product.
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 Focus on the “real” verb.
Each preparation of the solution is done twice.
Each solution is prepared twice.
 Avoid misplaced modifiers.
A large number of undeposited checks were
found in the file cabinets worth over $40,000.
 Avoid dangling modifiers.
When answering the question, his calculator fell
to the floor.
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 Avoid run-on sentences.
 Run-on: two main clauses joined without proper
punctuation.
Wrong: I love technical communication it is a great class.
Correct: I love technical communication because it is a
great class.
Wrong: Technical communication requires study, it can
be difficult.
Correct: Technical communication requires study; it can
be difficult.
Or: Technical communication requires study, and it can
be difficult.
Wrong: It is hot today, however the rain should bring
cooler weather.
Correct: It is hot today; however, the rain should bring
cooler weather.
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 Verb must agree with its subject.
Wrong: Steve and Denise is in love.
Correct: Steve and Denise are in love.
Wrong: Bob or Jill are the candidate.
Correct: Bob or Jill is the candidate.
Wrong: Neither Steve nor Denise are in love.
Correct: Neither Steve nor Denise is in love.
Wrong: Each of my friends are students.
Correct: Each of my friends is a student.
Chapter 11. Drafting and Revising Effective Sentences
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Choosing the Right Words and Phrases
• Select an appropriate level of formality.
• Informal
• Moderately Formal
• Formal
• Think about: audience, subject, and purpose.
• Be clear and specific.
• Be concise.
• Use inoffensive language.
Chapter 11. Drafting and Revising Effective Sentences
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Two Reasons to Avoid an Informal
Writing Style at the Office
• Informal writing tends to be imprecise.
• Informal writing can be embarrassing.
Chapter 11. Drafting and Revising Effective Sentences
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Seven Guidelines to
Make Your Writing Clear and Specific
• Use the active voice and the passive voice
appropriately.
• Be specific.
• Avoid unnecessary jargon.
• Use positive constructions.
• Avoid long noun strings.
• Avoid clichés.
• Avoid euphemisms.
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The Passive Voice is Acceptable in
These Four Cases:
• When the agent is clear from the context.
• When the agent is unknown.
• When the agent is less important than the action.
• When a reference to the agent is embarrassing,
dangerous, or in some other way inappropriate.
Active: Bob drove the van.
Passive: The van was driven by Bob.
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 That all this discussion is not merely
academic semantics but rather hard
facts of international politics can be
testified to by those who have been
involved in drafting this phrasing.
(Nordenstreng, Journal of Communication, spring 1979.)
Chapter 11. Drafting and Revising Effective Sentences
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Techniques for Being Specific
• Use precise words.
Ford Taurus automobile
• Provide adequate detail.
An engine on the plane experienced some difficulties.
The left engine on the Martin 411 lost power during flight.
• Avoid ambiguity.
Ambiguous: After stirring by hand for 10 seconds, add three drops of
the iodine mixture to the solution.
Better: Stir the iodine mixture by hand for 10 seconds. Then add
three drops to the solution.
Or: Stir the solution by hand for 10 seconds. Then add three drops of
the iodine mixture.
Chapter 11. Drafting and Revising Effective Sentences
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 Avoid clichés.
Afraid that we were between a rock and a hard place, we
decided to throw caution to the winds with a grandstand
play that would catch our competition with its pants
down.
Afraid that we were in a difficult position, we decided on
a risky, aggressive move that would surprise our
competition.
 Avoid euphemisms.
personnel surplus reduction
workforce imbalance correction
corporate downsizing
Chapter 11. Drafting and Revising Effective Sentences
dehiring
decruiting
indefinite idling
© 2004 by Bedford/St. Martin's
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Four Reasons to Avoid Unnecessary
Jargon
• It can be imprecise.
• It can be confusing.
• It is often seen as condescending.
• It is often intimidating.
Chapter 11. Drafting and Revising Effective Sentences
© 2004 by Bedford/St. Martin's
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Use Positive Constructions
 If this analysis is correct, copyright and
patent protection of knowledge may no
longer be unnecessary. (Cyberspace and the
American Dream, Release 1.2 August 22, 1994.)
Chapter 11. Drafting and Revising Effective Sentences
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Five Ways to Be Concise
• Avoid obvious statements.
The market for the sale of flash memory chips is
dominated by two chip manufacturers: Intel and
Advanced Micro Systems. These two chip
manufacturers are responsible for 76 percent of the
$1.3 billion market in flash memory chips last year.
The market for flash memory chips is dominated by
Intel and Advanced Micro Systems, two companies
that claimed 76 percent of the $1.3 billion industry last
year.
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• Avoid filler.
I think that, basically, the board felt sort of
betrayed, in a sense, by the kind of behavior the
president displayed.
The board felt betrayed by the president’s behavior.
• Avoid redundancy.
collaborate together
past history
end result
any and all
each and every
still remain
completely eliminate
very unique
at this point in time
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• Avoid unnecessary prepositional phrases.
• Avoid wordy phrases.
I am of the opinion that, in regard to profit achievement, the
statistics pertaining to this month will appear to indicate an
upward tendency.
I think this month’s statistics will show an increase in profits.
• Avoid pompous words and phrases.
expedite
in view of the fact that
proficiency
employ
utilize
attempt
endeavor
on a daily basis
prior to
a majority of
in the event that
at an early date
Chapter 11. Drafting and Revising Effective Sentences
© 2004 by Bedford/St. Martin's
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Avoiding Sexist Language
• Replace the male-gender words with non-genderspecific words. Chair or chairperson vs. chairman
• Switch to a different form of the verb.
The operator must pass a test before he is promoted.
The operator must pass a test before being promoted.
• Switch to the plural.
Operators must pass tests before they are promoted.
• Switch to he or she, he/she, s/he, or his or her.
• Address the reader directly.
Chapter 11. Drafting and Revising Effective Sentences
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Five Guidelines for Writing about
People with Disabilities
• Refer to the person first, the disability second.
“People with mental retardation,” not “the mentally retarded”
• Don't confuse handicap with disability. A person can
have a disability without being handicapped.
• Don't refer to victimization.
“a person with AIDS,” not “AIDS victim”
• Don't refer to a person as "wheelchair bound" or
"confined to a wheelchair."
• Don't refer to people with disabilities as abnormal.
Chapter 11. Drafting and Revising Effective Sentences
© 2004 by Bedford/St. Martin's
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Writing Numbers
 When beginning a sentence with a number, spell
it out. Seven people were invited to the party.
 Spell out one through nine, except currency.
The test is six pages long.
 Use numerals from 10 onward: My car gets 32
miles to the gallon.
 Decades: 1960s, not 1960’s.
 Currency: $43, not $43 dollars.
 After the thousands (1,340): 110 thousand, four
million, etc.
Chapter 11. Drafting and Revising Effective Sentences
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Confusing words







Affect, Effect
Ensure, Insure, Assure
Discrete, Discreet
It’s, Its
To, Too
Than, Then
site, sight, cite
Chapter 11. Drafting and Revising Effective Sentences
© 2004 by Bedford/St. Martin's
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Techniques to Make It Easy to
Translate Your Writing into Other
Languages
• Use short sentences.
• Use the active voice.
• Use simple words.
• Include a glossary.
• Use words that have only one meaning.
• Use pronouns carefully.
• Avoid jokes, puns, and culture-bound references.
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