Academic writing are packed with details to support a topic. Typical sentence construction refers to a subject, an action, and supporting information. If you want to write an effective research paper you must choose the right way you arrange these elements. It can boost impact or, adversely, blur the point you intend to make.
A topic sentence shows the main idea of a paragraph. After reading the topic sentence, we can predict supporting points and the paragraph is easy to follow. A strong topic sentence introduces the main point of the paragraph, and supporting information and examples follow. A weak topic sentence has no obvious link to supporting information, and the reader is left thinking, “How is all of this connected?”
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State main ideas first
When you construct a sentence, you want to deliver your message without delay. Compare:
Patience, understanding, and flexibility are necessary characteristics of a good educator.
A good educator must be patient, understanding, and flexible.
In a, the reader only knows who you are talking about when they reach the end of the sentence. When you start the sentence with the main idea, a good educator in this instance, the reader knows what to focus on, and they can make predictions about further details.
Details and important information
Assume that sentence a is a topic sentence. The paragraph would continue with evidence and reasons to support the characteristics patient, understanding, and flexible. This is important information, so it should end the sentence.
Here is another example with the main idea at the start of the sentence and important information last:
Freedom of speech is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), as well as the constitutions of many countries.
In this example, the central idea is Freedom of Speech. Important details are the UDHR and the constitutions of many countries. The following sentences will expand on the latter, and the paragraph will progress logically. Notice use of the passive tense to keep the sentence concise.
Which of these sentences is a better follow-up sentence?
However, different levels of protection are offered by the constitutions of different countries. For example...
Countries offer different levels of protection, however. For example...
The second sentence places old information – countries – at the beginning of the sentence. New information appears later. The writer can then provide examples of different levels of protection, and the topic stays in focus.
An effective method to make important information stand out is to use it in a short independent sentence. For example:
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948, enshrines the freedom of expression. Almost every nation on the planet has signed it.
In the example above we see:
A central idea as a subject
Important information at the end of the sentence
An independent sentence to highlight an important fact
Notice, too, the embedded clause adopted in 1948. This clause provides minor details. Embed a clause within a sentence with commas on either side of it.
Avoid unnecessary words
Your essay loses focus when you opt for long, wordy sentences. Aim to be economical with your words and express thoughts succinctly. Two common language habits make sentences too long. They are:
Strings of prepositions
Using nouns instead of verbs (nominalization)
Consider the following example:
The main cause of serious problems in the economies of many countries is the bad practice of corruption in the world of business.
There are too many prepositions in this sentence, and it contains the weak verb is. We can reorganize the words and use a more powerful verb. Next, we’ll put the central idea at the beginning and cut out unnecessary prepositional phrases. The result:
Corruption in the business world causes serious problems in many economies.
The sentence contains the verb form of cause. We have eliminated unnecessary words – bad practice of corruption. Is there a good practice of corruption? Similarly, the economies of many countries can be more concise. Are there other things besides countries that have economies?
When you are proofreading your work, look for common signals that interrupt clarity. Make the subjects of your sentences apparent, and write important information at the end of sentences. Use other devices, such as embedded clause and short independent sentences, to make strong, articulate points. Finally, keep sentences accurate and relevant with concise language.
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