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Applying the lessons of story- the sentence level

Readers expect for sentences to deliver information using a certain predictable structure. When writers fulfill readers’ expectations, they make it easy for them to process important pieces of information efficiently and effectively. What if it isn’t immediately clear what your main subject should be? Ask yourself what the most important action of the sentence really is. Now determine who or what is responsible for that action.

When you put your main character first, you give the reader essential information about the main actors in the drama they will be asked to follow. You also create a context in which the reader can understand what you will go on to say about that character.

On characters and actions

In an ideal world, the subject of your sentence will be its main character, and the action of your sentence will be the main verb. Why is this so important? When these two things don’t line up, readers experience certain negative effects of the mismatch.

  • Readers will judge your prose to be indirect, abstract, complex, dense, and unclear
  • Readers have to work harder to translate your words into a story that they can remember
  • Readers will have to fill in any missing story elements from their own knowledge
  • Readers are more likely to interpret your sentence in a way you did not expect or want

( LRS 2008 Curriculum , Actions)

Clear sentences

Easy-to-understand sentences are not the product of some subtle mystery. We prefer them because we can recognize their key information:

  • “As John [character] remarked [action] earlier...”
  • “As Mary [character] argued [action] … ”
  • “As our results [character] demonstrate [action]… ”

This is not to say that your main character must always be the subject of your sentence, or that character’s action is always represented by the verb. However, if readers find your writing confusing or unclear, it’s a safe bet that one of these things is throwing them off. If your most important character is not the main subject of your sentence, and if that character’s most important action is not represented by the sentence’s main verb, a good first step is to locate each of these and align them with one another!

Choosing characters and emphasizing actions

Achieving optimal placement of characters and actions in your sentences is as much about diagnosis and revision as it is about drafting or composition. As Joseph Williams explains in Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace , to transform characters into subjects, you have to know three things:

  • When you haven’t;
  • Where to look (for characters); and
  • What to do when you find them (or when you don’t) (Style 53).

Williams and Colomb present a step-by-step system for finding and relocating characters. They teach us to

  • Skim the first seven or eight words;
  • Identify the main characters;
  • Locate actions involving those characters;
  • Organize your new subjects and verbs into a sentence using conjunctions such as if, although, because, when, how, and why (Style 53-54).

We’ll walk through the process using an example here.

Questions & Answers

Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
what school?
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
anyone know any internet site where one can find nanotechnology papers?
Damian Reply
sciencedirect big data base
Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
characteristics of micro business
for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
there is no specific books for beginners but there is book called principle of nanotechnology
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
carbon nanotubes has various application in fuel cells membrane, current research on cancer drug,and in electronics MEMS and NEMS etc
so some one know about replacing silicon atom with phosphorous in semiconductors device?
s. Reply
Yeah, it is a pain to say the least. You basically have to heat the substarte up to around 1000 degrees celcius then pass phosphene gas over top of it, which is explosive and toxic by the way, under very low pressure.
Do you know which machine is used to that process?
how to fabricate graphene ink ?
for screen printed electrodes ?
What is lattice structure?
s. Reply
of graphene you mean?
or in general
in general
Graphene has a hexagonal structure
On having this app for quite a bit time, Haven't realised there's a chat room in it.
what is biological synthesis of nanoparticles
Sanket Reply
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
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Source:  OpenStax, Three modules on clear writing style: an introduction to the craft of argument, by joseph m. williams and gregory colomb. OpenStax CNX. Jul 17, 2008 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10551/1.1
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