Posted by: Jack Henry | August 15, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Two Tips for Clear Writing

We all struggle with putting our thoughts in writing in the most sensible, logical way. Even the best writers don’t always write perfectly in their first draft; they revise their text until they are confident it is clear.

Two challenges really hinder the legibility of a writer’s text: illogical sentence sequence (the order sentences are placed in) and missing transitions between sentences. I read a great article on that so beautifully explains these issues and how to fix them that I’m going to share it with you here. I hope you find it useful.

A challenge that any writer can run into is establishing fluent forward movement among sentences. To ensure understanding for readers, writers need to clearly connect related thoughts and properly signal when one is shifting to another.

Consider this text:

Janice is going to Nashville. She enjoys traveling. She loves rock music and concerts. Her favorite band, Heavy Medal, is performing. Janice’s family is having a reunion. The airline is lowering fares. Janice has two weeks of unused vacation from work. She wants to go to Austin, Texas, too. [dbb – You’ll find suggestions about how fix this disjointed paragraph toward the very end of the article—read on!]

These sentences convey information, but they also make us work to decipher their association. Their lack of cohesion lowers the likelihood we’ll retain them as we should.

As writers, we can help them adhere with proper arrangement and transitions. Sentence arrangement involves placing statements in a logical sequence. Transitional markers indicate the relationships among ideas.

For a better sequence of sentences, we focus on what the order of thoughts could or should be.

Scattered sequence: Brianna wrote a report. She bought more paper. She gave it to her teacher. She proofed it for typos.
Logical sequence: Brianna bought more paper. She wrote a report. She proofed it for typos. She gave it to her teacher.

For marking transitions, one way to connect different sentences is by repeating a word or an idea from a previous sentence.

Less connected: Questionable claims can spread through social media. An embezzler sits on the village board.
Better with repeated idea: Questionable claims can spread through social media. One such claim is that an embezzler sits on the village board.

Another way to achieve smoother links is by including a transitional word or phrase. These markers may also be referred to as conjuncts or conjunctive adverbs. The following table includes some of these common expressions.

Addition moreover, even more, further, furthermore, besides, and, and then, likewise, also, plus, too, as well, again, in addition, equally important, next
Comparison similarly, likewise, in like manner
Contrast but, yet, however, still, nevertheless, on the other hand, on the contrary, after all, at the same time, otherwise
Place here, there, near, beyond, beside, opposite to, adjacent to
Purpose to this end, for this purpose, with this object, because
Result hence, therefore, accordingly, consequently, thus, as a result, then
Summary in brief, in sum, in short, in other words, that is, to be sure, for example, for instance, in fact, indeed, in any event
Time meanwhile, at length, immediately, soon, in the meantime, afterward, later

Less smooth: I am a carpenter. I am a surfer. I will coach my son’s softball team.

More smooth with transitional words and phrase: I am a carpenter. I am also a surfer. I will soon coach my son’s softball team as well.

With the preceding principles in mind, let’s touch up our text about Janice by working on our sentence sequence and transitions:

Janice is going to Nashville because her family is having a reunion there. She enjoys traveling; plus, she has two weeks of unused vacation from work. Janice also loves rock music and concerts, and her favorite band, Heavy Medal, is performing in Nashville the week of the reunion. Even more, the airline is lowering fares. Janice wants to go to Austin, Texas, later too.

By focusing on the order of our thoughts and the stitches that sew them, we elevate our impact as writers who communicate with precision, clarity, and eloquence.

I hope the rest of your day is wonderful.

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Ext: 765432

About Editor’s Corner

Editor’s Corner keeps your communication skills sharp by providing information on grammar, punctuation, JHA style, and all things English. As editors, we spend our days reading, researching, and revising other people’s writing. We love to spend a few extra minutes to share what we learn with you and keep it fun while we’re doing it.

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