Sentences and Style

Tips for Choosing Style

Include Variety

“Sentence variety is a means by which the writer helps the reader to understand which ideas are most important, which ideas support or explain other ideas, etc. Variety of sentence structures is also a part of style and voice.” (Douglas E. Grudzina and Mary C. Beardsley)

Adding variety to sentences gives it life and rhythm. Sentences with the same structure and length become boring for readers. Varying sentence style and structure also reduces repetition and adds emphasis wherever necessary. Long sentences are useful when incorporating large amount of information; short sentences help in maximizing the essential points. To enliven the paragraphs, the sentences should be of varying lengths. This also helps in creating effective emphasis. If many sentences start with the same word (The, It, This, or I), it becomes tedious for readers. Therefore, changing the opening words and phrases can be refreshing. Different beginnings help alter not only the structure but also the emphasis of the sentence. Also, one change often leads another, thus creating an abundance of sentence variety.

Use Subordination Carefully

Subordination is a grammatical strategy, which combines two ideas of a sentence, one being more important than the other. The less important idea is subordinate to the more important idea. The data chosen for subordination depends upon the meaning you want to deliver. The main idea should be expressed in an independent clause, and subordinate ideas should be expressed in subordinate clauses. Subordination enhances the writing style.

Ex:      As the sky turned dark gray, the wind died down. [Focus is on wind].

As the wind died down, the sky turned dark gray. [Focus is on sky].

When, Whenever, After, Until, Before, After, Where, Wherever, Because, Since, So that, If, Unless, If only, Although, and Even though are all effective subordinators.

Proper Use of First and Second Person Pronouns

Usage of first (I, my, me, mine, we, us, our, ours) and second (You, your, yours) person pronouns is important in establishing a link between the writer and the reader. Unless giving an opinion, one should generally write in Third person. Try to keep first and second person pronouns such as “I”, “We”, and “You” out of your writing as much as possible.


In professional writing, being direct is important, because in many cases, ‘time is money’, and readers want to know if a document answers their question or addresses their need without having to analyse it in detail. Some writers believe that by including as many details as possible and repeating information, they become clearer. However, by trying to ‘drill in’ information, they may draw attention away from the main message and confuse the reader instead. In fact, by stating the point clearly and directly at strategic points in a document, one has a better chance of getting their intended meaning across.

One can make their writing concise by avoiding long, crowded and wordy sentences, especially if they are in succession. If you write one or two long sentences, make sure the next sentence is short to break the density. Besides, following the below mentioned tips will help for a clear and concise writing.

1. Favour the active voice where possible. Passive sentences are wordier, and can be confusing if they do not reveal the agent of an action.

Wordy: The project was finished by the workers before the deadline was reached.

Revised: The workers finished the project before the deadline.

2. Avoid ‘there is/are’ at the beginning of sentences. In many cases, we overuse these words, even when they are unnecessary.

Wordy: There are several conclusions that we can draw from these results.

Revised: We can draw several conclusions from these results.

3. Use modals (may, might, could, should, must) where possible. Some believe that modals are informal; however, this is not true. Modals, in fact, modify verbs and have a clear place in language.

Wordy: It is possible that the product will be funded.

Revised: The product may be funded.

4. Use verbs instead of nouns where possible. Besides making sentences concise, verbs are action oriented, and give the writing a more direct tone.

Wordy: A tool box is not a requirement for this procedure.

Revised: This procedure does not require a tool box.

5. Avoid weak verbs. Some verbs, instead of signalling action, depend on a noun to support them. In many cases, such verbs can be replaced by other verbs, which do not require a noun, such as ‘take’, ‘make’, ‘do’, ‘give’, etc.

Wordy: This investigation serves to show the findings of the experiment.

Revised: This investigation shows the findings of the experiment.

6. Use punctuation strategically. If your paragraph is getting cluttered with too many words or long sentences, it is often possible to use punctuation to cut down on words.

Wordy: There are many reasons for climatic change, which include toxic pollution, deforestation and volcanic activity.

Revised: There are many reasons for climatic change: toxic pollution, deforestation and volcanic activity.

7. Avoid wordy clichés. Some phrases are so commonly used in spoken English that they have become almost unconscious. Writing, nevertheless, gives the opportunity to become more conscious of how language is used, and thus allows for the elimination of repetitive material. Here is a list of such clichés.

Common Wordy Clichés

Wordy Concise
a majority of many (or number)
a number of some (or number)
subsequent to after
due to the fact that because
have the capability/ability to can
in the event that if
so as to, in order to to
with regard to about
give a summary of summarize
make an assumption about assume
come to the conclusion that conclude
take action act
make a decision decide
make a proposal about propose
end result result
cancel out cancel
enter into enter
completely eliminate eliminate
at this point in time now
there can be little doubt definitely, certainly
in the absence of without
higher in comparison with higher than


Summarizing can be defined as presenting the substance of a given work briefly. A summary should convey the key points of the work, and at the same time, should be significantly shorter than the original. It helps to understand what the paper is all about as it is a shorter version of the detailed original.

It not only neatly ties together all the previous information included in the paper, but also calls for some sort of action. It gives reasons why the reader should do/believe something and motivates them to actually do it.

Purposes of Summarizing

It helps to understand the main points and structure of an authors argument.

A summarized document is easier to file than a long one.

It presents the background information quickly.

Writing Summaries

An effective summary should combine the available information into concise, coherent sentences/paragraphs. If the sentences are not properly formed, the summary will not make sense and the flow of information will be affected. The sentences should be framed in such a manner that the separate facts and ideas fit together to convey the core meaning. It involves deleting irrelevant material and highlighting key points. Three techniques selection and deletion, note taking, and miniaturizing help in summarizing the material.

Things to Remember While Writing a Summary

Read the original text that has to be summarized at least twice or more till you are sure that you understand it.

Highlight the main context.

Identify and mark parts of the text that support the main idea.

For longer papers, you can include the main points from the key sections, such as, introduction, scope of study, methods section, results section, and discussion/conclusion.

Rephrase the points in your own words, but ensure that the purpose and message of the original is retained. This will help to avoid plagiarizing

Your summary should be about 10-25% of the original length.

Crosscheck to ensure accuracy and correctness.

If you are including some other writer’s information, place it within quotes and mention the name of the author(s) or source of the summarized material. Mention how the summarized material is relevant to your own argument.


The general context

Plagiarism means copying or in some way reproducing someone else’s work without giving them credit or acknowledgement. In many ways, it is a form of stealing consistent with the etymological root of ‘plagiarism’, which in Latin means ‘kidnapping’. Using another’s work without permission and/or credit signals one of three different situations: copyright breach, plagiarism or invasion of privacy (Branscum, 1991; Howard, 2003; Leval, 1990).

Copyright is a legal issue. If you use without permission work that has been published in a tangible medium or patented, you breach copyright and are liable to lawsuits. However, copyright expires after a certain amount of time, when the work becomes part of the public domain. Copyright law was designed to protect the rights of producers of literary and artistic artifacts. However, public access to such artifacts also needed legal protection, so the doctrine of fair use was created as an amendment to copyright law. Fair use entails using a part of a work for purposes that benefit the public good, such as for education. According to fair use, you may use another’s work without permission if:

  • You are using only a fraction and not the complete item.
  • You give credit to the original source.
  • The item has been published and is, therefore, not private.
  • The purpose is educational.
  • Your use of the material will not affect the market value of the original.

Government documents are considered public property and are not copyrighted. This does not mean to say, that you can copy material from them without citing the source. Or else, this would be plagiarism. If you reproduce a work or part of a work without acknowledging the original creator, and present it as being your own, you are plagiarizing, even in cases where the work is not copyrighted.

Copyright protects only the tangible expression of an idea, not the idea itself. Plagiarism regulations cover the unacknowledged reproduction of the idea itself. Individual scholars produce and publish ideas for their livelihood, and any unacknowledged use of their hard work is both injury and insult. These accounts for the heavy penalties universities impose on students convicted of plagiarism; although legal sanctions do not apply in such cases, the ethical violation carries an equally serious consequence, exclusion (temporary or permanent) from the community.

Plagiarism can be avoided by:

  • Summarizing – expressing in your own words the gist of a document, and citing the source.
  • Paraphrasing – expressing in your own words the gist of a part of an idea, and citing the source.
  • Quoting – copying the exact words of a section of the original document, putting them in quotation marks to set them off from your own words, and citing the source.

All ideas that you take from other texts need referencing. The only exception is common knowledge. Common knowledge consists of propositions and statements that did not originate with the writer, but that are accepted facts in the wider community. Examples include such propositions as ‘Berlin is the capital of Germany’, ‘The Earth is a planet’ and ‘Three plus two equals five’. This, however, is not always so straightforward because knowledge, in many cases, is dependent on the community in which it is used. When using another’s work you may also be invading their privacy, a legally sanctioned offence. This generally occurs when you publicize information that the originator kept personal or private. If you publish your roommate’s journal on the Internet, for example, you are infringing on their privacy. If you publish the journal and present it as your own, you are also plagiarizing.

The professional context

As the last example shows, the professional world presents a challenge to conventions regarding plagiarism. Instances exist in business and industry where presenting another’s work as your own is an accepted practice. Examples include boilerplate text and public relations documents. Boilerplate is standardized text that can be reproduced verbatim, or with minor alterations, for different audiences and documents. For instance, letters sent to clients to inform them of company developments or changes work on the boilerplate model, all recipients get basically the same letter, with only the opening address differing. In such cases, the individual whose name appears on the document is not the same as the one who wrote a section of the document.

Public relations documents are also often anonymous, attributed to anyone who may be a PR officer at a particular time, or written by someone other than the one whose name appears on the document. For instance, corporate websites and promotional material, such as brochures, often contain segments written by different individuals, and they can be updated by rewriting some sections, reorganizing information by cutting and pasting from different sections, etc.  all without acknowledging the original source. Furthermore, speeches and articles of Chief Executive Officers (CEOs), and other senior personnel, are more often than not written by the company’s professional writers, but presented as the CEO’s own words. The original writer in these cases has nothing to show but financial remuneration and secret pride. These cases are more variants than aberrations of the plagiarism conventions discussed in the previous section. In the corporate world, the company takes precedent over the individual in matters of production. In many cases, new staffs are asked to sign agreements stating that their work belongs to the company; producing material that the company can use is part of their job description. This is publicly known and acknowledged as business convention; therefore the CEO who puts his name on an article written by his writers is not morally or legally reprehensible. In such instances, the corporation is seen as a body, and acting as an individual. Stepping outside the boundaries of a company, however, would transgress this convention. If a writer of X company, for example, used material that a writer of Y company wrote, he/she would no doubt be plagiarizing. Other documents, especially those that involve major finalisable projects, follow rules akin to those of academic contexts. For example, proposals to management for funding and/or approval of a project always include writers’ names, and so do reports describing the results of an investigation. Also, in such reports, the writers are expected to cite their sources of information, and to quote, summarize and paraphrase as appropriate. Besides giving credit where it is due, citing sources, in both professional and academic contexts, enhances a writer’s accountability as well.


Now-a-days, anyone can search anything in the Internet using the vast number of readily available search engines. However, your search may sometimes end up showing results quite different from your requirements. Use these few tips and tricks to search information easily and effectively:

»   Use multiple similar words to perform a general search on the topic. You may use synonyms or alternative search terms; for example, restaurant, cafe, bistro.

»   Many search engines do not differentiate between uppercase and lowercase letters, even if present within quotation marks. The following words would return the same results: english, English, ENGLISH, œenglish, œEnglish.


»   Enter base words for better and specific results. For example, use technology and not technologies, walk and not walked. However, if you are searching for web-pages on the act of walking, enter the whole term walking.


»   Use quotation marks to limits the search results to only those web-pages that contain the exact phrase you have specified.


»  Use specialty search-engines for searching information about a specific topic or region. Some examples of specialty search engines:

LawCrawler  Search engine for legal professionals.

AskJeeves  Your question and answer search engine.

MedHunt  Search engine and index of medical information.


» Use the plus (+) and minus (-) signs before words to force their inclusion (+) or exclusion (-) in the search; for example: +new +york +city or +new +york +state city.


»  Avoid using punctuations and common words, such as “a”, “my”, or “the”, unless you are searching for a specific title.

»  Use unique terms that are specific to the subject you are researching. For example, instead of searching for œdogs, search for a specific dog breed.


»  Use both the advanced and simple modes of search to retrieve relevant sites.

The Writing Process

The Internet

The internet has emerged as the best source of information. There is practically nothing that you cannot find by browsing the internet. Think about any topic science, technology, medicine, engineering, sports, jobs, education, etc.  the internet has it all.

But, the information provided in the Internet differs in its accuracy, reliability, and value. There are lots of choices, but one cannot be sure if the data they are reading is accurate or not. Some sources may even be outdated and unverifiable. Unlike the conventional information sources (books, magazines, official documents, etc.), information posted in the internet does not require to be approved before it is made public.

When writing research papers, the researcher needs to evaluate the sources. He needs to make decisions about what to search, where to search, and once the relevant material is found, has to check whether it is a valid. The researcher faces difficulties in assessing the credibility of information, and it is extremely time consuming. At times, it can be frustrating. There is a vast amount of information at your disposal, but you may not find exactly what you need.

Sources of Information on the Web

Websites: Much of the information on the internet is available through websites. They vary widely in the quality of information and validity of sources that they provide.

Weblogs/Blogs: These are quite recent development in web technology. These online forums facilitate discussion and collaboration. Here, the writers post something and the readers respond to it. Blogs of prestigious journalists and public figures are more credible than other blogs.

Message boards, discussion lists, and chat rooms: These exist for all kinds of disciplines, more particularly, for universities.

Multimedia: The Internet has a huge amount of multimedia resources, which includes online broadcasts, news, images, audio files, and other interactive websites.

Categories of Information on the Web

The Free, Visible Web: It includes all the publicly mounted web pages, which are indexed by search engines. You can use a good search engine or directory to find information from this category.

The Free, Invisible Web: It includes the websites that provide their articles or information free to users. But, this information can be obtained only by going directly to their home page; search engines cannot index it. Ex.: magazines, newspapers, reference works, etc. Legal, medical, and financial databases can also be included in this category.

Paid Databases: It includes commercial databases containing scholarly journals, newspapers, court cases, etc. You need a password/or have to be a subscriber/or be a member, etc. to obtain information from this category.

Types of Search Tools

Search Engines: A search engine consists of an interface to key a query, an index of Web sites that the query is matched with, and a software program (called a spider or bot) that goes out on the Web and gets new sites for the index. Many search engines are now becoming reference sites, which provide much more than just search capability. They also have news, weather, free software, picture indexes, ratings of web sites, etc. Ex.: Google, Fast Search, Northern Light, HotBot, AltaVista, Britannica, Bartleby, etc.

Directories: Directories are an organized collection of links to websites picked out by human editors. These are much smaller than search engines. But, the credibility of the articles and sites it provides is very high. Ex.: Yahoo, Look Smart, Snap, etc.

Morphemes – English editing.

In linguistics, a morpheme is the smallest unit of word having a semantic meaning. They can’t be broken down any further into recognizable or meaningful parts. A morpheme is composed by a phoneme in spoken language and a grapheme in written language. Broadly, morpheme is categorized into two classes.
(i) Free Morpheme
(ii) Bound morpheme.
A free morpheme can stand alone as an independent word in a phrase while bound morpheme depends on other morphemes to form a meaningful word. For instance, Unsuccessful – This word consists of un+ success+ ful. Here, ‘un-’ and ‘-ful’ are bound morpheme where ‘success’ is a free morpheme. ‘un-’ and ‘-ful’ are affixes.
Bound morpheme generally tend to affixes i.e. prefixes and suffixes. Moreover, the morphemes in which affix is attached is called base or stem morpheme. A base morpheme can be both i.e. free and bound morphemes. Some words are free morphemes but in contraction, it becomes bound morphemes.
For instance, I will go to school. Here, ‘will is a free morpheme.
I’ll go to school. Here, ‘ll’ is the contraction of ‘will’. But it is bound morphemes.
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Deictic – English editing.

Deictic is a word specifying identity or temporal location from the perspective of a speaker or listener in the context in which the communication occurs. It is a word (such as this, that, these, those, now, then) that points to the time, place, or situation in which the speaker is speaking. Words are deictic if their semantic meaning is fixed but their denotational meaning varies depending on time and/or place. Words or phrases that require contextual information to convey any meaning are deictic.
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Diphthongs – English editing.

Diphthongs are single vowel sounds that begin in one vowel position and end in another vowel or glide positions.
• (/oy/) – a tense mid back (rounded) vowel found in words like “boy” and “soy.”
• (/aw/)- a tense low back vowel found in words like “cow” and “blouse.” In some dialects of American English, it begins with a low front vowel and transcribed as /æu/.
• (/ay/) – a tense low back vowel found in words like “Aye” and “my”)
• a – a tense low vowel that varies by dialect.
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Consonant – English editing.

A consonant is a sound of speech produced when the speaker either stops or severely constricts the airflow in the vocal tract. Consonants are classified into two categories namely, voiceless and voiced. Voiceless consonant are the consonants produced without sound from vocal cord. In voiced consonants the vocal cord vibrates. Consonants are described in terms of (i) Place of articulation (ii) Manner of articulation.
As per place of articulation, consonants can be classified as follows.
• Bilabial – produced from airflow obstruction between two lips
• Labiodental- articulated with lower lip and upper teeth.
• Interdental- produced by placing the tongue against upper incisor
• Alveolar- articulated with the tongue against or close to the superior alveolar Ridge.
• Alveo-palatal- articulated with the blade of the tongue behind the alveolar ridge, and the body of the tongue rose towards the palate.
• Velar – articulated with the back part of the tongue against the soft palate
• Glottal- articulated with the glottis.
As per manner of articulation, it can be described as
• Stops – the sounds produced when the airflow is completely obstructed during speech. Example: p &b (bilabial stop); t &d (alveolar stop); k &g (velar stop).
• Fricatives – the sounds produced by forcing airflow through a narrow opening in the vocal tract and friction created producing sound. Example: f & v (labiodental); θ & ð ( Interdental); s & z (alveolar); h(glottal); ʃ & ʒ (Alveo-palatal)
• Affricates – this is a single but complex sound, beginning as a stop but releasing secondarily into a fricative. Example: tʃ & dʒ (Alveo-palatal)
• Nasals – these sounds are voiced oral stop caused by complete obstruction in oral cavity, allowing free escape of air through nose. Example: m (bilabial); n (alveolar); ŋ (velar)
• Liquids – they are approximant consonants, where air flows passed the tongue blade without much friction. Example : l (alveolar liquid)
• Glides – these are vowel-like articulations that precede and follow true vowels. It’s smooth and glides into the vowel sound. These are also sometimes referred to as semivowels. Example: w & ʍ (bilabial); ɹ (alveolar); j (alveo-palatal).
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