Blending and restructuring sentences can create fluid and more concise writing that keeps readers moving.
The simplified, declarative sentence is powerful. “You should send me the details soon,” and “Cari met with me yesterday to discuss the plan” convey their meanings clearly and concisely, using the subject-verb order. That is the core structure of an English sentence, and it should be the dominant sentence structure in your writing. But a series of consecutive short sentences can make your writing sound like a children’s book, so look for opportunities to recast sentences for easier reading.
Blend related information into one sentence
When you see separate sentences containing related information, try to merge them, as in this example:
Original: The vessel carries 5,000 passengers and a crew of 2,100. It is double the size of what is considered a large cruise ship.
Revised: The vessel, which carries 5,000 passengers and a crew of 2,100, is double the size of what is considered a large cruise ship.
The reader gets two sentences worth of information in one, and the writing is more fluid, because commas are such a soft pause. You are weaving information into an adjective clause, a group of words beginning with which, that, who, whose.
Here is another example:
Children’s Hospital Boston is a comprehensive center for pediatric health care. As one of the largest pediatric medical centers in the United States, Children’s offers a complete range of health care services for children from birth through 21 years of age.
The words “comprehensive center for pediatric health care” and “one of the largest pediatric medical centers” are redundant. Try this:
Children’s Hospital Boston, one of the country’s largest pediatric medical centers, offers a range of health care services for children from birth through 21 years of age.
You get all the information in one sentence and save 14 words. The adjective clause in the middle is a “which” clause. Sometimes, as in this case, the “which” is implied.
Recast the sentence for variety and emphasis
Using an introductory element enables you to create emphasis while also varying the structure, so that you avoid a repetitive pattern of similar sentences. Here is an example:
Original: She provides short answers because she is eager to finish. You are likely to leave with inadequate details.
Revised: Because she is eager to finish, she provides short answers, leaving you with inadequate details.
Read the original sentence aloud and your voice is a monotone. Read the revised sentence and you hear a touch of emphasis in the beginning, and there also is emphasis on the main thought (she provides short answers). That stress is missing from the original.
Here is a similar example:
Original: He had no support because he insisted on doing things his way.
Revised: Because he insisted on doing things his way, he had no support.
Read the revised version aloud and you can hear added emphasis at the start on a detail that the writer wants to stress (stubbornness). And the revised sentence also adds emphasis to the main idea (he had no support) by positioning it at the end. And you hear that added punch as your voice comes down toward the end.
The revised sentence positions information up front in an adverb clause, a group of words that begins with such words as because, if, where, when, since, although.
Create graceful writing by crafting sentences for variety and emphasis will enrich the reading experience.
If you could benefit from more writing tips, join us for a webinar September 8th, called “Influencing Your Audience: Crafting Messages that Motivate.” Learn subtle persuasion techniques to use immediately, even in email, to make your messages convincing.
Ken O’Quinn is a professional writing coach and former Associated Press writer who conducts corporate workshops on business writing, persuasive writing, and corporate communications writing. He is the author of Perfect Phrases for Business Letters (McGraw-Hill), which is available here at Amazon.com.