A sentence is a collection of words which is arranged in a logical fashion, thus conveying a meaning. The way these words are arranged in a sentence depicts their relationship with each other. Hence, in order to clearly convey your thoughts to your audience, it is imperative that the right word, word sequence and punctuation be used. Sentence construction has many aspects to it including parts of speech,
- Writing sentences in the correct grammatical word order makes it easier for your audience to read and comprehend.
The standard word order in the English language is Subject-Verb-Object or S-V-O. The following example better explains this relationship: Sentence One. ‘Tim took his dog for a walk.’ Where ‘Tim’ is the Subject, ‘took’ the
- The ‘Subject’ and ‘Verb’ in the sentence should also be in agreement with respect to their tense. For example: ‘This group of 10 mice are the control sample.’ (Incorrect). Here the main subject is ‘group’, which is singular, and the verb is ‘are’, which is plural. Thus, in order to maintain the tense of the subject and verb, the sentence should read ‘This group of 10 mice is the control sample.’ (Correct).
When sentences having two subjects, one singular and the second plural, are separated by an ‘or’ or ‘nor’ the verb agrees to the subject closest to it. For example: ‘Neither the apples nor the banana was in the basket.’ Or, ‘Neither the banana nor the apples were in the basket.’
- Join or separate sentences by using appropriate conjunctions and punctuation marks.
Sentences become difficult to understand when they are long or use complex words. Try to balance the ‘weight’ of the sentence by reducing the complexity of other elements when one gets more complex. For example when the complexity of words increase, reduce the length of the sentences to keep a balance.
- Try to construct sentences containing approximately 20 words, since those with 35-40 words often seem difficult and confusing to comprehend. Conversely, sentences lesser than 12 words should be clubbed with other sentences to help maintain a smooth flow.
- One way of reducing overly long sentences is to identify the conjunctions , semicolons and commas, and separate the sentences at these points into independent ones of suitable lengths.
- Extremely lengthy paragraphs can also hinder the clarity of your arguments. On an average a paragraph of 150 words is considered ideal for scientific writing.
One way to do this is to divide the paragraph based on each aspect/reason/thought covered in your argument.
On the other hand, paragraphs lesser than 50 words (or five typewritten lines) are too short and should be clubbed.
The above tips can serve as guidelines to build the basic structure of your manuscript while you revise the drafts. I will deal with smaller nuisances of making your drafts clear and brief in my next article.