3 Cases of Improving Writing Through Combination

By Mark Nichol

In each of the following pairs of clauses, an ineffectual presentation of information is strengthened by altering sentence structure through combination. Discussion and revision follow each example.

1. Only about 7,500 fans attended the game, and about two-thirds of them had not paid for their tickets.

What is intended to be a modestly dramatic admission seems to be attached offhandedly to the end of this sentence. The revelation of the means by which the game’s attendance was boosted would be better presented by inserting it parenthetically into the main clause: “Only about 7,500 fans, about two-thirds of whom had not paid for their tickets, attended the game.”

It can be argued that this revision weakens the impact of the sentence, which in the context from which it was excised emphasized that a sports team had to give away most of the tickets for a game to ensure even a half-full basketball arena. To successfully punch up the end of the sentence with this admission, it would be better to revise the sentence to be more emphatic: “Only about 7,500 fans attended the game—and two-thirds of them had to be lured in with free tickets.”

2. This strategy can also be one of the more difficult to scope and plan. This is due to the challenges that can come with the reporting process.

This sentence benefits from the approach employed in the previous example: “This strategy can also, because of the challenges that can come with the reporting process, be one of the more difficult to scope and plan.” This revision also eliminates the weak expletive “this is” at the head of the second sentence.

3. The executive team and the board of directors should ensure that there is a passionate focus on improving stakeholder experiences. Stakeholder experiences are the accumulation of day-to-day interactions.

Here, an awkward immediate reiteration, at the head of the second sentence, of the phrase that ends the first sentence is easily avoided by subsuming the second sentence into the first as a subordinate clause: “The executive team and the board of directors should ensure that there is a passionate focus on improving stakeholder experiences, which are the accumulation of day-to-day interactions.”

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