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Business and Technical English Writing

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Language Review: Sentences

Stacked Modifiers and Nouns:

•Avoid using long strings of modifiers or nouns.

•These stacked modifiers and nouns can be hard to read and sometimes create ambiguity.

• Add a few words (especially prepositions and conjunctions) to make the relationships

between nouns clear to the reader.


•Say what you have to say in as few words as possible without sacrificing clarity or omitting

vital information.

•Conciseness is desirable in all writing, but especially so in technical writing.

•Excessive use of the passive voice, excessive nominalization, unnecessary repetition, and

unnecessary words and phrasesare some common causes of wordy writing.

Passive Voice and Active Voice:

•Use the active voice whenever the passive voice is not appropriate.

•Active verbs make for concise prose;sentences with passive verbs use more words.

•Moreover, passive verbs de-emphasize or even eliminate mention of the performer of the

action conveyed by the verb.


•Where possible, use verb forms instead of noun forms.

•Excessive or unnecessary nominalization (turning verbs into nouns) can make your writing

wordy because it requires a noun and a verb instead of just the verb form.

Unnecessary Repetition:

•Avoid unnecessary repetition.

• One of the most common types of unnecessary repetition involves modifiers that repeat

information given in the word modified.

•In the slides that follow we discuss a few examples of recognizing and eliminating


Unnecessary Words and Phrases:

•Make sure that each word and phrase in your sentences contributes to meaning and clarity.

•Try to avoid the two commonly used constructions There is/are . . . And It is . . . .

•Delete superfluous material when you revise your first draft.

Overloaded Sentences:

•Avoid sentences that contain more information than the reader can easily follow.

•Instead, divide such sentences into more manageable pieces that can be easily grasped.

Sentence Fragments:

•A sentence fragment is missing a subject, a verb, or both, but is punctuated as if it were a

complete sentence.

•In the following slides we examine a few examples of such sentences which do not make

sense and at the same time correct them as well.

Comma Splice:

•Never link two independent clauses with just a comma; this is known as a comma splice


•You can correct a comma splice in four ways:

 Separate the independent clauses into two separate sentences. Punctuate both

sentences with periods.

 Replace the comma with a semicolon or with a semicolon and a conjunctive

adverb such as however or furthermore. (The conjunctive adverb is then normally followed

by a comma.)

 Replace the comma with a comma and a coordinating conjunction.

 Make one of the clauses into a subordinate clause.

Fused Sentences:

•Do not allow two independent clauses to run together without a conjunction or punctuation

between them.

•This error produces a fused sentence.

•To join two main clauses, follow the options listed under comma splice.

Stringy Sentences:

•Avoid stringing several clauses that would be easier to read and understand if they were

broken up into separate clauses.

•The following example make the point of how incoherent, the language becomes with the

use of stringy sentences.


•Agreement between subjects and verbs and between pronouns and their antecedents is

important for paragraph coherence, as well as for style and grammar.

•Whenediting your document, check for agreement, paying close attention to subjects,

verbs, and pronouns.

•Make sure your subject agrees with your verb (subject-verb agreement).

•Make sure your pronouns agree in gender and number with their antecedents (pronounantecedent


•Make sure the form of your pronoun is appropriate for how you are using the pronoun in the

sentence (pronoun case).

•For the sake of clarity, make sure your pronouns are closely linked to their antecedents

(pronoun reference).

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