Writing tips

by Harriet Castor

It’s important, when you write, that your sentences are clear and easy to understand. One way to improve your clarity is to make sure that the SUBJECT of your sentence is named early on. The subject is the person or thing that the sentence is about (and the main verb of the sentence tells us what the subject is doing).

Look at these examples from Julia Copus’s book ‘Brilliant Writing Tips for Students’ (published by Palgrave Macmillan):

‘By being able to identify human voices from as early as twelve hours after birth, babies are perceptive to the sounds of human language from very early on.’

The subject of this sentence is ‘babies’. The sentence isn’t very easy to read, though, because we have to wait a long time before we come to this word! The sentence would be easier to read if you moved the subject (and the verb that goes with it) to the beginning of the sentence, like this:

‘Babies can identify human voices from as early as twelve hours after birth, and this makes them perceptive to the sounds of human language from very early on.’

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

In the last writing tip I talked about the SUBJECT of a sentence, and how the clarity of your writing improves if you introduce the subject early on. (The subject is the person or thing that the sentence is about.) I’d like to add that it helps if you can also keep the SUBJECT and MAIN VERB of your sentence close together. (The main verb tells us what the subject is doing).

Look at these examples from Julia Copus’s book, ‘Brilliant Writing Tips for Students’ (published by Palgrave Macmillan):

‘Some students, simply because they feel the need to sound ‘academic’, write unnecessarily complicated sentences.’ 

Here, there is a big gap between the subject (‘some students’) and the verb (‘write’). The sentence is much easier to read if the subject and the main verb are put close together, like this:

‘Some students write unnecessarily complicated sentences, simply because they feel the need to sound ‘academic’.’ 

Can you spot examples like this in your own work?

If you’d like to book a confidential one-to-one session with me to work on your writing skills, please email Harriet.Castor@uwe.ac.uk  I’m at Frenchay on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

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