View entry : Sentences and paragraphs

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    The scholars of academic writing have emphasized on how powerful a sentence can turn into. There are many good books on academic writing; worth of good reading if you want to pursue academic career. Let’s talk about sentences generally before going to the details of the sentence. Sentences are powerful and it reflects the knowledge and maturity of the writer. When you write a paragraph, the first sentence should not only be attractive but also need to be able to summarise the gist of the message succinctly. Writing a good first sentence is a daunting task and needs robust knowledge on both the field and the language. There are some writers who have the habit of summarising the idea in the final sentence of the paragraph. Again, this is variable and there is no hard and fast rule on this. In fact, if you are reading any academic piece, this is a very important tip. If you are running out of the time or getting bored reading papers, you can read the first and last sentences of each paragraph and grasp the idea. Well, if you practise this often, you can identify the author’s style of writing once you are in the second or third page. If you sense that the author prefers first sentence to deliver his message, then you can stick with first sentence; ignoring last sentence. This tip will help you if you need to read substantial papers.

     Let’s concentrate on how to write a good sentence. A good sentence should be in the active voice and preferably use verbs than nouns. For example, let’s analyse this sentence-

    “It is perceived that introduction of surgical checklist may play a role in harm reduction and patient safety”.

Passive voice- perceived

Noun- introduction, reduction

Now, let’s change the sentence to the active form.

                                           “Surgical checklist will reduce harm and improve patient’s safety”.

This sentence is more clear and concise. Remember, writing a complex sentence does not make you a good writer; you have to convey your idea in clear and succinct manner- this should be your aim.

     Another important message is try to avoid unnecessary words.  Please make sure every word counts. Most of us have our favourite words whenever we write. This is the same concept as crutch words whenever we speak. We need to get rid of these clutters in our paper. Unfortunately, we do not realise this habit as we are comfortable in it. The most common clutter words as following:

        Namely, basically, that, need

    One of the way to identify your clutter words is to use wordle software. This software will show the most used words with the frequency.  Of course, you can give your manuscript to others and most likely they will detect it. Clutter words irritate readers and should be avoided or kept to minimum.

There are some common phrases that can be shortened. This list is exhaustive.

Phrases

Better option

a number of

several

a variety of

various

due to

from

not often

rarely

prior to

before

rule out

exclude

matter of contention/debate

contentious

 

        Paragraphing is important. We have to ensure every paragraph conveys a single idea. Let’s say that your idea is in the first sentence of a paragraph, then you should be able to get entire message once you read all the first sentences of the paragraphs in your manuscript. Assuming that the logical sequence is broken in this way, then you need to revise the text.

 

PS- Please refer to our resources section for further reading and reference.