Smart Sentences

Letters become words and words become sentences. Being smart in how you write your sentences is key to successful digital writing. The way you construct your sentences will affect the way your reader responds to what they see.

In looking over the “Sentences” post of “Construct Clear, Compelling Copy” in the Yahoo Style Guide, I learned some key yet simple concepts. As Professor Nixon states in “Word Nerds Unite: 19 of William Safire’s Best Fumblerules of Grammar” it is important to “avoid run-on sentences they are hard to read.” Run-on sentences are often a result of rambling which Ben Herrman lists as one of the don’ts of digital writing. Being concise is absolutely necessary for creating a clean compelling copy. If your word order makes sense and your grammar would be approved by Grammar Girl, then you are making it easier for the reader to process through what you are trying to communicate. Also, when sentences are short it is easier to scan through.

 

Constructing a clear sentence doesn’t stop there. There are more key concepts:

  • Do not have sentence ADD; focus your sentences. This means you don’t give more than 1 main point in a sentence.
  • Put the most important information at the beginning of a sentence. If someone is scanning it is where their eyes will first be drawn to.
  • If you list something, explain it in the same order you listed it.
  • Breaking up a subject and verb with a parenthetical statement in between can cause confusion.
I was surprised by one of the key concepts: try not to split infinitives or phrasal verbs that include an adverb (such as turn off or log on). This surprised me because when I talk I say, “Turn the lights off,” instead of saying, “Turn off the lights.” I see how in writing it can create a clearer copy. I was also surprised in finding out how using some negative wordings such as “Don’t forget,” “Unfortunately,” and “cannot” should be avoided. Positivity invites the reader in instead of pushing them away. I would’ve probably said something like, “Don’t forget to finish your blog before midnight, otherwise you cannot receive credit for it,” instead of saying, “It is important to remember to complete your blog before midnight in order to receive credit.”
One thing I would like to know is whether or not your last sentence in a paragraph should sum up key information like it should when writing an academic paper.
I hope to practice some of these key concepts and gain some readers as I write digitally throughout my life.
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