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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

Application of nanotechnology in medicine
what is variations in raman spectra for nanomaterials
Jyoti Reply
I only see partial conversation and what's the question here!
Crow Reply
what about nanotechnology for water purification
RAW Reply
please someone correct me if I'm wrong but I think one can use nanoparticles, specially silver nanoparticles for water treatment.
Damian
yes that's correct
Professor
I think
Professor
what is the stm
Brian Reply
is there industrial application of fullrenes. What is the method to prepare fullrene on large scale.?
Rafiq
industrial application...? mmm I think on the medical side as drug carrier, but you should go deeper on your research, I may be wrong
Damian
How we are making nano material?
LITNING Reply
what is a peer
LITNING Reply
What is meant by 'nano scale'?
LITNING Reply
What is STMs full form?
LITNING
scanning tunneling microscope
Sahil
how nano science is used for hydrophobicity
Santosh
Do u think that Graphene and Fullrene fiber can be used to make Air Plane body structure the lightest and strongest. Rafiq
Rafiq
what is differents between GO and RGO?
Mahi
what is simplest way to understand the applications of nano robots used to detect the cancer affected cell of human body.? How this robot is carried to required site of body cell.? what will be the carrier material and how can be detected that correct delivery of drug is done Rafiq
Rafiq
if virus is killing to make ARTIFICIAL DNA OF GRAPHENE FOR KILLED THE VIRUS .THIS IS OUR ASSUMPTION
Anam
analytical skills graphene is prepared to kill any type viruses .
Anam
what is Nano technology ?
Bob Reply
write examples of Nano molecule?
Bob
The nanotechnology is as new science, to scale nanometric
brayan
nanotechnology is the study, desing, synthesis, manipulation and application of materials and functional systems through control of matter at nanoscale
Damian
Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
Renato
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
?
Kyle
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
Adin
why?
Adin
what school?
Kyle
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
Joe
anyone know any internet site where one can find nanotechnology papers?
Damian Reply
research.net
kanaga
sciencedirect big data base
Ernesto
Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
hi
Loga
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
Bharti
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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