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Making your sentences effective

Put a few words together and you have a sentence; put some carefully chosen words together and you have an effective sentence. And effective sentences have much more power in communicating a message and helping your business.

If you look at two sentences saying the same thing, there often is not a right or wrong version. For example, ‘Tash is a professional writer based in Australia’ and ‘Based in Australia, Tash is a professional writer’ are both perfectly good sentences.

However, one form of a sentence may well be more effective in a particular context. Think about the purpose of the sentence – is it an instruction, a description, an inducement or an explanation? An explanation or instruction needs to be as clear as possible while an inducement may be effective with a hint of mystery.

When reading one of your sentences (or comparing multiple versions of a sentence), the following list may help you determine which is the most effective for your purpose.

  • clarity – can the sentence be easily understood on the first read?
  • meaning – does the sentence give the correct meaning? Mixing pronouns, making it too long, over using punctuation and inappropriate word use can all obscure the meaning
  • flow – does the sentence move smoothly or are there bits that break concentration and flow? Of course, a deliberate break in flow can emphasise a point, but generally a smooth flow is your aim. Flow with the surrounding sentences is also important
  • congruent – do all the words join into one unit that works logically? do all the words seem to belong there?
  • concise – does every word deserve its place in the sentence? If in doubt, try the sentence without that word and see if it is more effective
  • prominence – are key words and ideas shown as the most important? Generally, the words at the start and finish of a sentence carry the most weight so that’s where key words are placed for greatest effect

When testing your sentences against this list rememebr that reading them out loud can be a very useful tool – your tongue and ear will pick up issues your eyes may miss.

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