CHAPTER 4- Effective Sentences and Paragraphs
NOTE: VERB, SUBJECT, NOUN, MODIFIER
Sentences: made up of phrases and clauses.
Clause: a group of related words containing a subject and a complete verb. When a clause
delivers full meaning, and can be a stand-alone sentence it is called an independent clause.
When it doesn’t deliver the full meaning, and cannot stand on its own it is called a dependant
clause. A dependent clause may begin in one of two ways: with a dependent marker, (a word
such as “if, as, because, since, or although”). Or with a relative pronoun (that, which who).
o Independent clause: “The program cost more than we expected”.
o Dependent clause: “although the program cost more than expected, it has improved
Types of sentences:
o A simple sentence has one independent clause. Ex. “we will vote on the issue”.
o A compound sentence has two independent clauses. These clauses are often joined by
words like “for, and, nor, but, or, yet”. Sometimes compound sentences may be over-
coordinated, when un-related clauses are joined. Ex. “John will present his report, and
we will vote on the issue”
o A complex sentence has one dependent clause and one independent clause. Ex. “When
we meet Thursday, we will vote on the issue”.
o A Compound-complex sentence has one dependent clause and two independent
clauses. Ex. “when we meet Thursday, John will present his report, and we will vote”.
Improving sentence variety and length:
o Vary the rhythm by alternating short and long sentences.
o Turn a clause into a prepositional phrase. A preposition links nouns, pronouns and
phrases to other words in a sentence. The word or phrase that the preposition
introduces is called the object of the preposition. A preposition usually indicates the
temporal, spatial or logical relationship of its object to the rest of the sentence. For
example, “The book is on the table”.
Prepositions include words like: “with, at, to, of, by, against, toward, from,
above, on, in”.
You can also use relative clause words to link sentences such as: “that, which,
Or you can use a modifying phrase, which is also known as a participial phrase.
A modifying phrase contains a verbal, which can be a present participle
(working), a infinitive (to work) or past participle (worked). Ex. “Supported by
upper level management, the plan will include extended benefits”.
o Convert a sentence defining or describing something into a phrase or clause. Ex. Alissa, a
bartender, likes pizza”. Instead of “Alissa is a bartender. She likes pizza. When you
separate the descriptive information from the rest of the sentence it is called an
Phrasing basic questions: The type of question you ask will reflect the response you receive. So
you must ask, “What kind of response am I looking to get”. Declarative sentences are often
used, in business, to make a statement. However sometimes, questions need to be asked. Here
are 3 different types of questions:
o Closed questions: Can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”. They often do not
feature words like “what, why, and how”. Ex. Will you finish by tomorrow? o Open questions: can be answered with an unlimited number of possible responses.
Usually use “what, why, and how”. Ex. How can we reduce production cost?
o Hypothetical questions: Made up of “what if” scenarios. Ex. If you were given control
over this project, what would you do?
Improving sentence clarity:
o Avoid using “this, that, and it” to refer to something. Make sure the reader understands
what “it” refers to (know what the pronoun renames and replaces). Make sure the
pronoun reference isn’t ambiguous, or that the pronoun doesn’t refer to more than one
thing. If necessary, simply repeat the noun.
o Avoid embedding dependent clauses: put dependant clauses either at the beginning or
at the end of sentences, NOT in the middle.
o List multiple negatives. Ex. Do not write “he was not unhappy about not filing to meet
the criteria”. Instead write: “He was pleased he met the criteria”.
Writing with consistency:
o Number: do not switch from singular to plural.
o Person: don’t shift the frame of reference from first person (I) to second person (you) to
third person (she/he/one).
o Verb tense: do not switch the tenses of the verb (past, present, future).
o Voice: don’t shift between active and passive voice.
Writing balanced sentences: parallel structure. Parallelism is the use of the same grammatical
forms or matching sentence structures to express equivalent ideas. Match nouns with nouns,
verbs with verbs, and phrases with phrases.
o Ex. Issuing equity, slowing capital spending, and to sell assets (should be: selling assets).
o Ex. 2. This is not a time for restraint, but boldness (should be: but for boldness).
Writing for emphasis: making facts stand out.
o Use eye-catching mechanical devices, punctuation and formatting. It is important to use
these techniques in moderation, otherwise they become distracting. Try the following:
Underline, bolding, italifont sizes , ALL CAPS, colour, and text boxes.
You can also use dashes – instead of commas— to add attention.
Format lists that run horizontally or vertically.
Shouting: is the name given to the practice of typing messages in block letters.
o Add emphasis through style: style adaptations for emphasis require more planning but
have a stronger impact on the reader. Techniques for adding emphasis through style
involves three basic principles: placement, sentence length and structure, and word
choice. The following are other techniques used for emphasis:
Put important facts first, or last. When sandwiched in between non important
information, the important information may be clouded and lessen the impact.
Generally, the subject word at the beginning establishes a focus for the
remainder of the sentence. Changing the subject placement, changes sentence:
Focus on survey: “the survey indicated that most employees support
adoption of staggered work hours.
Focus on employees: “Most employees support tea option of staggered
work hours, according to the survey”.
Focus on adoption: “the adoption of staggered work hours is supported
by most employees, according to the survey”.
Use simple sentences to spotlight key ideas: The fewer words, the more impact
they have. Use tags and labels to flag important ideas. Ex. “most importantly, most of all,
above all, particularly, and crucially” all alert the reader.
Present important ideas in list form.
Use precise and specific words to identify the main point. Ex. Replace the word
“good” with a less vague descriptive word.
Repeat key words in a series for rhetorical effect. Advertisers and marketers use
this form to persuade others. Ex. “we came, we saw, we conquered.
o Apply opposite rules for de-emphasis:
Use complex sentences to de-emphasis bad news.
De-emphasis bad news by embedding them (dependent clause in the middle).
Applying active and passive voice: An active voice is energetic, forceful and direct. This style
is preferred for business. In active voice the subject performs the action. Ex. Belinda
authorized the purchase. A passive voice receives an action. Ex. The purchase was
authorized by Belinda. Active voice should be used in the following situations:
o To state good and neutral news clearly and directly.
o To emphasize the doer of an action.
Institutional passive refers to the practice of concealing the performer of an action. Use
the passive voice in the following situations:
o To conceal does of an action when the information is unimportant, unknown, or
o To de-emphasize bad news. Ex. It cannot be released. VS. We cannot release it.
o To show tact and s