3 examples of making sentences clearer and smoother

by | 15 Jul 2021

Three examples of making sentences read better. They are taken from a line edit of a book I worked on recently. The main aims are clarity and smooth reading.

Example 1

Organizations are complex, while their models are simple, hence the attraction of the latter in making sense of the former.

Firstly, chop up the long sentence. Secondly, the references (former, latter) cause the reader to hop back and forward to understand what refers to what. Replace them with their nouns and the reader gets it on the first pass (at the cost of a little repetition).

Organizations are complex, while their models are simple. No wonder people are attracted to using models to help make sense of organizations.

Example 2

What is it that you’ll notice?

Say the same thing with fewer words.

What do you notice?

Example 3

Hannah saw it was a bit after 7, when she woke up.

This reads awkwardly because the prepositional phrase (when she woke up), which tells us when this is happening, is at the end. The reader stumbles to place the action after it has happened. So move the waking to the front and replace it with concrete verbs (woke, glanced). Everything is simpler when you are moving forward in time. “X, then Y, then Z” is clearer than “Z, preceded by Y, which came after X”.

Hannah woke, glanced at her clock, and saw that it was a bit after seven.

Note that the result is longer in two out of three of these changes. Brevity is great but clarity and readability trump it every time.

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