Crafting Clearer Sentences

The current section we are working on in my writing seminar is style and clarity. To learn more about clarity, the class had to read a text by Williams; Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace. Williams mentions that when characters are used as subjects in a sentence and Actions as verbs, it is much easier to understand the text. Williams’ Chapter on style also focuses on how nominalizations tend to confuse the reader and might lead to different interpretations of a text. He suggests that when actions are nominalizations, they should be changed into verbs. To work on the clarity of one of my texts, I have selected four sentences which violate some of Williams’ principles and I will use his guidelines to make them clearer.

What Is the Path To Academic Success?

1. Although his view might be subject to argument, it can be agreed upon that time taken to keep physically fit can be a good way to exercise the body and mind.

The first part of this sentence sounds complicated and confusing. To make it clearer, subject to argument can be replaced by the verb argue. According to Williams, a sentence is much clearer if actions are verbs.

Since subject to argument is the action, the sentence can be written as

Although his view might be argued,…

2. The sharing of ideas through working together cooperatively enables the sharing of ideas and different perspectives in different situations.

We (subject) can share (verb) different ideas and perspectives (object) through working together cooperatively in different situations(Adv. Phrase).

The above sentence in bold is more complicated and uses a lot of repetition thus is hard to understand.

The underlined sentence is more concise because the different parts of speech are easily identified by the reader.

3. Academic success can have a broad interpretation.

The word interpretation is the nominalization of interpret. The sentence can be made clearer by using the verb interpret.

Academic success can be interpreted broadly.

4. Cooperative base groups got me interested because here the “members’ primary responsibilities are to…provide each other with support, encouragement, and assistance in completing assignments.”

The above sentence also contains nominalizations which can be replaced with verbs:

…provide each other with support, encourage, and assist each other in completing assignments.