Monday, February 4, 2013

Keep your subject and verb close

Together forever.
A simple way to add clarity to your writing is to keep the subject and verb of a sentence close together. When they are separated by a lot of other words, readers have to hunt for the words that belong together. This can be especially confusing if the extra words include other verbs. 
Bad.  Good writers, no matter how much they like to interrupt themselves with a verbal diversion, imagine a magnet between subject and verb. 
Good.  Good writers imagine a magnet between subject and verb, no matter how much they like to interrupt themselves with a verbal diversion.
Here's another example, this one from, ironically, the federal government.
The natural word order of an English sentence is subject-verb-object. This is how you first learned to write sentences, and it's still the best. When you put modifiers, phrases, or clauses between two or all three of these essential parts, you make it harder for the user to understand you. 
Consider this long, convoluted sentence: 
If any member of the board retires, the company, at the discretion of the board, and after notice from the chairman of the board to all the members of the board at least 30 days before executing this option, may buy, and the retiring member must sell, the member's interest in the company. 
In essence, the sentence says: The company may buy a retiring member's interest. All the rest of the material modifies the basic idea, and should be moved to another sentence or at least to the end of the sentence.  
Remember boys and girls, Big Brother is watching you write.

No comments:

Post a Comment