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Session 2

Clarity
Clarity

Word choice
Sentence structure
Use of the active voice instead of
the passive voice
Word Choice
Preferring Clear and
Familiar Words

Use everyday, conversational words.


Strength of a single syllable: When you
speak and write, no law says you have
to use big words.
Eleven words account for 25% of all
spoken English, and all are monosyllabic
I, you, the, a, to, is, it, that, of, and, in
Omit superfluous words

Words are superfluous when they


can be replaced with fewer words
that mean the same thing.
Sometimes you can use simpler
words for these phrases:
Superfluous vs.
Simpler Words
Superfluous Simple
in order to
in the event that
subsequent to
prior to
despite the fact
that
because of the fact
that, in light of
Sentence Structure
Sentence Clarity
Why do we need to be
concerned with sentence
clarity?
To communicate effectively
to the reader
To make writing persuasive
To show credibility and
authority as a writer
Common clarity problems

Misplaced
modifiers
Dangling
modifiers
Passive voice
Misplaced Modifiers

Words or phrases
that cause
confusion
because they are
located within a
sentence so far
away from the
word(s) to which
they refer
Misplaced Modifiers

Consider the
different
meanings in the
following
sentences:
The dog under the
tree bit Carrie.
vs.
The dog bit Carrie
under the tree.
Misplaced Modifiers

Sometimes,
misplaced modifiers
are used for comic
effect:

The other day, I shot


an elephant in my
pajamas. How he
got in my pajamas
I'll never know.
-- Groucho Marx
How might you correct
the following sentence?
Jennifer called her
adorable kitten opening
the can of tuna and
filled the food bowl.
Better:
How might you correct
the following sentence?

Portia rushed to the


store loaded with cash
to buy the birthday
gift.
Better:
Misplaced Modifiers

Some one-word modifiers often cause


confusion:

almost just nearly simply


even hardly merely only
Explain the meaning of
each sentence:
Almost everyone in the
class passed the
calculus exam.
Everyone in the class
almost passed the
calculus exam.

Which sentence
indicates that
everyone in the class
failed the exam?
Explain the meaning of
each sentence:

John nearly earned


$100.

John earned nearly


$100.

Which sentence
indicates that John
earned some money?
A dangling modifier is

a word or phrase that


modifies another word or
phrase that has not been
stated clearly within the
sentence
Often occurs at the beginning or end of
a sentence
Is often indicated by a participle, an
infinitive or a prepositional phrase
Dangling modifiers

Having finished dinner, the


television was turned on.
How might you correct
the following sentence?
Playing solitaire on the computer
for three hours, Michaels paper
was not completed.

Better:

Better:
How might you correct the
following sentence?

Locked away in the old chest,


Richard was surprised by the
antique hats.

Better:

Better:
How might you correct
the following sentence?
To work as a loan officer,
an education in financial
planning is needed.

Better:
The Effective Sentence

Vary the kinds of sentences.


Vary the beginnings of your
sentences.
Vary the complications of
sentences.
Combine sentences.
Vary the kinds of sentences

Simple sentences
Compound sentences
Complex sentences
Compound-complex sentences
Vary the kinds of sentences

Avoid long, obscure sentences, which:


Are hard to read;
Are hard to write;
May contain more grammatical errors; and
May bury some ideas.
Keep most sentences short and
simple.
Avoid too many ideas in one paragraph.
Vary sentence beginnings

Begin with an adverb.


Calmly, she listened to the sad news.
Begin with an adjective.
Tall and handsome, he towered over them.
Begin with an infinitive.
To tell the truth is often difficult.
Vary sentence beginnings

Begin with a participial phrase.


Tired from working, the farmer rested.
Begin with a noun clause.
How the prisoners escaped is a mystery.
Begin with a direct object.
His books he gave to the library.
Vary sentence beginnings

Begin with there.


There is hope.
Begin with an adverbial clause.
Unless you tell the truth, we will not know
what really happened.
Begin with a prepositional phrase.
After a few seconds, a man opened the door.
Vary sentence complication

Complicate the subject.


Mary went along with the idea because
this particular bond seemed especially
safe.
Mary, while basically opposed to the idea
of a new bond for the bank, went along
with the idea because this particular bond
seemed especially safe.
Vary sentence complication

Complicate the verb.


Vincent Rodriguez bought carefully, but
still he bought.
Vincent Rodriguez bought carefully, but
only after much research into the
commodities market. Still, he bought.
Vary sentence complication

Complicate the direct object.


A car is sometimes called an investment.
A car is sometimes called an investment,
one that few people ever make money
on.
Combine sentences

Why should we know about


sentence combinations?
To build clarity
To avoid wordiness
To avoid redundancy

Keys to combining sentences:


Create adjectives
Create properly placed modifying clauses
Eliminate unnecessary or repetitive phrases
Combine sentences
Use an appositive phrase.
This place usually draws a large crowd on
Sundays. It is a popular tourist spot.
This place, a popular tourist spot, usually
draws a large crowd on Sundays.
Use a participle.
The boy refused to study. He felt dejected.
Feeling dejected, the boy refused to study.
Combine sentences
Use a gerund.
The man walked briskly around the park. He
was in high spirits.
Walking briskly around the park lifted the mans
spirits.
Use a compound subject.
Ramon brought his books to school Anita
brought her books to school, too.
Ramon and Anita brought their books to school.
Combine sentences
Use a compound verb.
Marianne looked for her bag. She found it on
top of the desk.
Marianne looked for her bag and found it on top
of the desk.
Use a compound object.
The students studied some interesting fossils.
They studied their names, too.
The students studied some interesting fossils
and their names, too.
Combine sentences
Use an infinitive.
The carpenters are here. They came to repair
the leaking roof.
The carpenters are here to repair the leaking
roof.
Use a relative clause.
We need some helpers. They must be good
workers.
We need some helpers who are good workers.
Combine sentences
Use an adverbial clause.
We visited our cousins. They felt depressed
over what had happened.
Because our cousins felt depressed over what
had happened, we visited them.
Consider the following
paragraph:
The boy struggled to ride his bike. The
boy is four years old, and he is feisty.
The bike is new, and it is a light blue
color. The boy received the bike for
his birthday. He struggled for two
hours. However, he was unsuccessful
in riding the bike.
Combining Sentences

The animal trainer dove into the pool.


The trainer was skilled and athletic.
She was excited when she dove into
the pool. She swam with two dolphins.
The dolphins were babies. The
dolphins were playful. The trainer
swam with the dolphins for over an
hour. When the trainer swam with the
dolphins, she was happy.
Use of the active vs.
the passive voice
Active Voice

The executive
committee approved
the new policy.
The subject-and-verb relationship
is straightforward. The subject is
a be-er or a do-er and the verb
moves the sentence along.
Passive Voice

The new policy was


approved by the
executive committee.

The subject of the sentence is neither a


do-er or a be-er, but is acted upon by
some other agent or by something
unnamed.
Use the Active Voice with
Strong Verbs
One of the quickest ways to
ensure clarity is to use the active
voice with strong verbs.
Strong verbs are guaranteed to
liven up and tighten any
sentence, virtually causing
information to spring from the
page.
Use the Active Voice

To be more:
The board decided to
Specific increase this years
Personal bonus.
Concise
A decision was made to
Emphatic
increase this years
bonus.
Use the Passive Voice:
When you want to stress the receiver of
the action
Your savings account is insured up to P500,000.
Only Robert was injured in the accident; the
remainder of the passengers were unhurt.
When the agent of the action is unknown
My cell phone was stolen last night.
When the doer is not important in the
sentence
The new students center was completed last week.

http://international.ouc.bc.ca/chalkntalk/whypassive/;
http://www.writing.utoronto.ca/advice/style-and-editing/passive-voice
Use the Passive Voice:
When the agent of the action is
obvious from the context
I was born on July 10, 1985.
When you want to make generic
statements, announcements, and
explanations:
Rules were made to be broken.
When you want to avoid personal, blunt
accusations or commands
The account was mishandled.

http://international.ouc.bc.ca/chalkntalk/whypassive/;
http://www.writing.utoronto.ca/advice/style-and-editing/passive-voice
Use the Passive Voice:
When you want to connect ideas in
different clauses more clearly
The music was being played too loudly by
the students, who were finally asked to
turn it down.
When you are writing in a scientific
genre that traditionally relies on the
passive voice
The sodium hydroxide was dissolved in
water.
http://international.ouc.bc.ca/chalkntalk/whypassive/;
http://www.writing.utoronto.ca/advice/style-and-editing/passive-voice
Passive Voice

Indicates what is receiving the


action rather than explaining who
is doing the action
Two indicators:
"to be" verb (e.g., is, are, was,
were) + past participle of the verb
"by ________ (optional)
Examples of the Passive Voice

Mistakes were made.

Thecats have been


brushed by Laura.
Passive vs. Active Voice

There is nothing inherently wrong with


the passive voice, but if you can say
the same thing in the active mode, do
so.
The worst offense of the passive voice
is when business interests,
government agencies or the military
use the passive voice to avoid
responsibility for actions taken.
Passive vs. Active Voice

"Cigarette ads are designed to


appeal especially to children"
places the burden on the ads as
opposed to, "We design cigarette
ads to appeal especially to
children," in which "we" accepts
responsibility.
How might you improve
the following sentence?

The decision that was


reached by the committee
was to postpone the vote.

Better:

Best:
How might you improve
the following sentence?
The disk drive of the
computer had been
damaged by the electrical
surge.

Better:

Best: