If your writing is not advanced, you should primarily write short sentences—sentences that specify only the subject, verb, object and, sometimes, a conditional clause. As your writing becomes more advanced, you can gradually lengthen your sentences. Longer sentences can be more engaging. The reader is more likely to become immersed in your words. They are more likely to embrace, rather than criticise, your arguments
Longer sentences: Details about your subject, verb, and object.
You can apply two approaches to lengthen your sentences. First, you can include more details about the subject, verb, and object. The following example shows how gradually including more details about the subject, verb, and object can lengthen the sentence.
Participants completed a survey
No additional details
The male participants, who were all older than 20, completed a survey
Added details about the subject--participants
The male participants, who were all older than 20, completed a survey comprising 50 questions
Added details about the object—a survey
The male participants, who were all older than 20, completed a survey comprising 50 questions as rapidly as possible
Added details about the verb—completed
As this example shows, the sentence still revolves around one subject, verb, and object. However, after the subject, verb, and object are described in more detail, the sentence becomes longer.
Longer sentences: Blending
Most sentences should revolve around only one subject, verb, and object. However, after your writing becomes proficient, you might be able to connect two or more sets of subjects, verbs, and objects. To illustrate, suppose your work included the following two sentences
- Male participants completed a survey.
- Furthermore, female participants watched a video
To show these two sentences are related to each other, you could combine these sentences into one: Male participants completed a survey, and female participants watched a video.
12.1 Attempt to lengthen about 20 of your sentences. You could
- insert more details about your subject, verb, and object
- combine two sentences to generate one sentence
The most proficient writers tend to use a style called active voice—a style that enables readers to understand and appreciate the arguments more readily. To help you distinguish active voice and passive voice, consider the following examples.
Researchers conducted two studies
We recruited 20 participants
Participants completed a survey
We subjected the data to a t-test
Researcher have shown that carrots improve IQ
As you skim these examples, you might uncover several insights about active sentences and passive sentences. Specifically, in active sentences, the subject precedes the object. For example, in the sentence The researchers conducted two studies, the subject—the researchers—precedes the object—the two studies. However, in passive sentences
- the subject is often implied and thus ambiguous; for example, in the sentence Two studies were conducted, the subject—the researchers—is not specified explicitly. The sentence is very hazy.
- the object often precedes the subject; for example, in the sentence Two studies were conducted by researchers”, the object—the two studies—precedes the subject—the researchers; the sentence is reasonable but not as easy to understand as active voice
This distinction between active sentences and passive sentences is subtle. But, in practice, after you read several examples of active sentences and passive sentences, the distinction becomes intuitive. You can feel that some sentences seen active or direct and other sentences seem passive or indirect.
12.2 Attempt to identify the sentences you wrote that utilise passive voice. To achieve this goal
- search sentences that include were, by, and it; these sentences are often passive
12.3 Attempt to convert many of these passive sentences into active sentences. That is
- specify the subject of this sentence—the agent that initiated the action—explicitly
- insert the subject before the object of this sentence
Occasionally, writers will deliberately repeat words to create a particular effect. For example
- To generate a poetic effect, they might write I will help. I will inspire. And I will teach
- To compare two objects or methods, they might write the men looked up, and the women looked down
But otherwise, if you do not want to create these effects, you should not repeat keywords as often. For instance, to engage readers
- do not begin consecutive sentences with the same word or phrase
- do not repeat nouns or verbs in the same sentence too often