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After completing this chapter, you will be able to:
q Construct sentences using the four basic structures.
q Identify the subject and verb in sentences.
q Write clear, concise, and effective sentences.
q Develop clear, concise, coherent, and effective paragraphs.
Remember the six C’s of letter writing referred to previously: courteous, clear, complete,
concise, correct, and consistent. Choosing the appropriate words has been discussed and
now you are ready to move on the next step. The word is the fundamental element of the
message while the sentence is the foundation for the effectiveness of the message. Words
alone do not communicate—they must be put together in an acceptable order to form
strong, well-constructed sentences that should flow smoothly through the receiver’s
Sentence Components
A sentence is a group of words that expresses one complete thought.
q It should be a grammatically correct arrangement of a group of words.
A subject identifies the person, place, thing, idea, activity, or quality being
q It tells who or what is being discussed.
q It may be a word, phrase, or clause.
A verb expresses action or a state of being.
q It may be a word or a phrase.
q Examples: Harold reads the paper.
She seemed angry over his answer.
A clause is a group of related words containing a subject and a verb.
q An independent clause expresses a complete thought and can stand alone as a
separate sentence. Example: Mona cleaned the garage.
q A dependent clause does not express a complete thought and cannot stand alone
as a sentence. Example: Because it was dirty.
q A dependent clause has a subject and verb but needs an independent clause to
make a complete thought.
q Dependent clauses are introduced by subordinate conjunctions such as: because,
is, since, unless, or by relative pronouns such as who, whom, whose, which, that,
A phrase is a group of two or more words that lacks a subject and a verb.
q Used as a noun, adjective, and adverb.
q Examples: Before going to bed; to the store; an empathic person
Types of Sentences
A simple sentence contains a subject and a verb—one independent clause.
q Example: Rudy attended the seminar.
q It can contain two or more subjects joined by a conjunction or two verbs joined by
a conjunction.
q Examples: Rudy and Kathy attended the seminar.
Rudy attended the seminar and presented a paper.
A compound sentence contains two or more independent clauses.
q Clauses are of equal importance, are closely related, and share emphasis.
q Example: Rudy attended the seminar, and Kathy presented a paper.
A complex sentence contains one independent clause and at least one dependent
q Clauses are related but are not of equal importance and do not share emphasis.
q Independent clause is the most important idea and is emphasized.
q Example: Since Rudy attended the seminar, Kathy presented a paper.
A compound-complex sentence contains two or more independent clauses and one
or more dependent clauses.
q Example: Rudy attended the conference because he was requested to do so, and
Kathy presented a paper.
Conversational Language
A trend in business communication is toward more conversational language rather than
rigid, formal writing.
Guidelines for Writing Effective Sentences
Sentences should contain only one idea.
q A sentence should convey a single thought and too many ideas weaken the
q Too many ideas may result in run-on sentences.
q A run-on sentence is defined as two or more independent clauses, sometimes
joined by a comma, but often without a coordinating conjunction.
q Example: Today is cloudy, it is suppose to rain.
q Run-on sentences can be corrected by making separate sentences from the
independent clauses, by adding appropriate punctuation, or by adding an
appropriate coordinating conjunction.
q Corrections: Today is cloudy. It is suppose to rain.
Today is cloudy; it is suppose to rain.
Today is cloudy, and it is suppose to rain.
Sentences should contain one complete thought.
q Sentences should be complete and not be fragments. A sentence fragment is a
group of words that does not express a complete thought. See examples on pp.
q Fragments are frequently found as opening and closing ideas in letters but are
weak in these positions. The letter openings and closing should be more
emphatic. A reader may only read the opening and closing; a strong opening and
closing could motivate the reader to read the middle.
q A deliberate sentence fragment can be effective. It can be made to express a
complete thought if an exclamation point or a question mark is placed after it.
q While fragments may result in an informal or chatty, breezy tone, they should be
used sparingly as some people may interpret them as inappropriate, sarcastic,
insincere, etc.
Sentences should use the active voice.
q Active voice: Subject performs the action described by the verb.
q The active voice is more direct, concise, personal, and vigorous. In the active
voice the subject of the sentence performs the action described by the verb. The
wording creates an illusion of movement. The reader's attention is focused on the
person rather than the action.
q Passive voice: The subject receives the action described by the verb.
q The passive voice limits movement. The passive voice requires more words
without adding to the meaning. It weakens the impact by taking away emphasis
from the action and the person who performs the action.
q The "people" element in writing is important to keep the writing flowing (make
people the subjects of sentences and write in the active voice whenever possible).
Sentences should be grammatically correct.
q It is important to abide by the "rules" of good English. Since the rules have
developed over time, they have been time-tested to help people communicate
q Subject/verb agreement causes many problems for writers.
o A verb should agree with its subject in person and in number:
§ A singular subject requires a singular verb. Example: The
committee has agreed to the date.
§ A plural subject requires a plural verb. Example: The members
have agreed to the date.
q Parallel construction improves clarity. Parallel construction means to use the
same grammatical structures in phrases, clauses, and listings to express similar
ideas. Example: Look at the chapter objectives at the beginning of these notes.
q Carelessness contributes to grammatical errors and can be habit forming.
q The key to correct writing is recognizing one's own errors.
q Writers can use dictionaries, reference manuals, and handbooks to improve usage
Sentences should be punctuated correctly.
q Commas may be the most troublesome of the punctuation marks.
o Commas are omitted where they are needed.
o Commas are inserted where they do not belong.
o Commas are misplaced within the sentence.
Sentences should be concise.
q Concise is the opposite of words, not the opposite of long. Concise sentences
contain no wasted words and use as few words as possible to communicate a clear
q Useless words should be eliminated—many times beginnings are useless, i.e. it is,
there are, there were.
q Repetitiveness may waste time and result in boredom and restlessness on the part
of the receiver.
q Vague sentences waste time and inhibit concentration.
q Omit "obvious statements." Omit facts the reader already knows. The best way
to begin a business letter is usually by directly answering the reader's question.
q Delete vague endings such as re-thanking an individual.
Sentences should be varied in length.
q Average length of sentences for fast reading = 17 words.
q Varying sentence length can enliven writing style.
o Too many short sentences result in a "choppy" message.
o Long, rambling sentences result in "run-on" sentences.
o The writing fault that most hinders readability is the long, rambling
o The "and" or "and so" habit leads to run-on sentences. To correct this
q Eliminate some of the "ands," break sentence into several
sentences, rephrase the ideas, etc.
q Use transitional words to connect clauses.
q Eliminate the "dependent-clause" habit. Do not use too many
dependent clauses in a sentence.
q A good rule to follow: avoid the "too many" of one thing in writing.
Sentences should be varied in structure.
q Sentences should "flow" from one to the next.
q To achieve cohesion, use transitional words or phrases. See list on page 64.
q To ensure smooth flow, refer to the preceding sentence and use connectives.
A paragraph is a group of sentences relating to one central idea. It functions mainly to
facilitate reading by grouping sentences to better convey meaning.
In developing paragraphs, address the following:
Paragraph Unity
q All sentences should relate to one topic.
q Include only relevant material
q A "topic sentence" (sentence that expresses the main idea of the paragraph) assists
in achieving unity.
o Summarizes the main idea of the paragraph.
o Usually positioned at the beginning, but may be at the end or in the body.
o Start a new paragraph for each new topic.
Paragraph Length
q Vary paragraph length (number of sentences).
q Limiting the number of sentences help to focus on the main idea.
q Can use one- or two-sentence paragraphs in combination with medium and long
q Short paragraphs read faster; paragraphs can be as short as one sentence, but this
is not normally a good idea.
q Bread a short letter into two paragraphs.
q Vary the length of paragraphs in long letters; use short paragraphs to emphasize
important ideas.
q Reasonably short paragraphs average 4 or 5 lines; may run 2 to 8 lines.
q Keep the opening and closing paragraphs short.
q a 2-4 line opening invites the reader to start reading; short closing stresses the last
q Emphasize important point of the message. Paragraph emphasis can be achieved
o Position—Put important word, phrase, or clause at the beginning or end
(the strongest location).
o Proportion—The most important point should occupy the most space.
o Repetition—Use caution; can decrease effectiveness when overused.
o Balance—Balance words, phrases, clause and sentences for emphasis.
o Length of paragraphs—Shorter paragraphs have more emphasis. Simple
sentences are better.
o Sentence structure—Use variety.
o Mechanical devices—Includes use of capitals, bold type, print styles,
bullets, underlining, highlighting, and color
q Heed the following warnings to maintain emphasis:
o Avoid generalizations and other vague expressions.
o Change passive constructions to active.
o Eliminate general, unemphatic sentence openings.
o Watch the placement of transitional expressions.
q Coherence is the orderly presentation of the message.
q Use transitional words or phrases to achieve continuity.
q Achieve paragraph coherence by:
o Being complete and organized in your writing.
o Placing sentences in the most understandable order.
o Using appropriate connective and transitional words.
q Enemies of coherence are misplaced modifiers and unclear antecedents.

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