# 6.2: How Do You Resolve Sentence-Level Problems?

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## VERB TENSE

Try to keep verb tense consistent, particularly within a paragraph. When you must change the tense, warn the reader of the transition. For an example of verb consistency editing, see below:

#### ORIGINAL

Today's technology is efficient. The Iron Mountain mining operations recovered only 54 percent of the metals from ore.

#### REWRITE

While today's technology is efficient, 19th century Iron Mountain mining operations recovered only 54 percent of the metals from ore.

In the above example, “today” and “19th century” explicitly warn the reader of the impending time change.

All too often, the future tense is used to refer to material that appears further on in the document. Instead, simply put such information in the present tense. For example, see below:

#### ORIGINAL

A hybrid system allows symbolic reasoning to complement quantitative reasoning. This paper will give an overview of the Q theory for constructing hybrid systems and will show that the Q methodology is extensible.

#### REWRITE

A hybrid system allows symbolic reasoning to complement quantitative reasoning. This paper gives an overview of the Q theory for constructing hybrid systems and shows that the Q methodology is extensible.

## PASSIVE VOICE

Below is a sentence written in both the active and passive voice. What changed?

#### PASSIVE

The body was found by the policeman.

#### ACTIVE

The policeman found the body.

There are good reasons to use passive voice and there are good reasons to avoid it.

Use the passive voice to do the following:

• Change the order of information in a sentence.
• Vary sentence structure for variety's sake - readers like variety.
• Eliminate the true subject if it is not important.

Avoid the passive voice because of the following:

• English readers prefer active sentences.
• Passive sentences use more words to express an idea.

## WORDINESS

Avoid wordiness in technical writing. For some examples of how to proofread for wordiness, see below:

#### ORIGINAL

I plan to review the relevant technologies available in the region to generate electricity as well as efficiently irrigate crops in the region to ensure that any policy recommendations are thoroughly thought out.

This coupling of a continuous plant with a qualitative abstraction of the plant is called a hybrid system. A hybrid system allows symbolic reasoning to complement quantitative reasoning with symbolic reasoning.

#### REWRITE

In order to ensure that any policy recommendations are thoroughly thought out, I plan to review the technologies that are regionally available for electricity generation and crop irrigation.

This coupling of a continuous plant with a qualitative abstraction of the plant is called a hybrid system. It allows symbolic reasoning to complement quantitative reasoning.

### OR BETTER YET

A hybrid system couples a continuous plant with a qualitative abstraction of the plant, allowing symbolic reasoning to complement quantitative reasoning.

#### ORIGINAL

The purpose of this thesis is to try to develop and verify a model for spring-loaded camming devices.

#### REWRITE

This thesis develops and verifies a model for spring-loaded camming devices.

## PUNCTUATION

Two things make writers who know punctuation rules feel uneasy about punctuation:

• Convention varies from document to document.
• Authors write sentences that should not be and try to fix them with punctuation, a strategy doomed to failure.

For example, an official use of the comma is to offset introductory matter in a sentence. If the matter is short, the comma may be eliminated. A second use is to connect two sentences joined by a conjunction word. If the sentences are short or have a parallel structure, the comma may be eliminated. Both of the following sentence pairs are acceptable.

#### THE RULE

However, the sky is not blue on Mars.

The ceiling is black, and the roof is blue.

#### THE EXCEPTION

However the sky is not blue on Mars.

The ceiling is black and the roof is blue.

Some sentences are too long and complicated to punctuate. They can be recognized by their many clauses and conjunctions. Such super-hyper-meta-compound-complex sentences just should not be; break them into shorter, well-connected sentences.

#### ORIGINAL

It includes an introduction to the subject, the problem to be solved which is to obtain an upper bound to the limit load of welded T-joints with an extension to determine the work required to grow a crack on it, background and further developments.

#### REWRITE

It introduces the problem of finding an upper bound to the limit load of welded T-joints. The solution method relies on the determination of the work required for crack growth. If successful, this method will be extended to other joint types.

## NESTED “ANDS”

A nested and is really a type of long sentence with no punctuation, though it can be punctuated at the expense of understanding. See below for an example:

#### ORIGINAL

The rate gyroscope itself consists of a very rapidly spinning wheel and electronic components which sense changes in the axis of rotation of the wheel, and which modify and output a digital signal accordingly.

#### REWRITE

The rate gyroscope itself consists of a very rapidly spinning wheel. Changes in the wheel's axis of rotation are sensed by electronic components, which modify and output a digital signal proportional to the changes.

The previous two examples show sentences that contain more than one idea. The solution is to give each idea a sentence of its own and to connect the sentences.

## SUBJECT/VERB SEPARATION

English readers like to see the subject and a verb in proximity. Humor the reader. As a guideline, keep the subject and the verb on the same line.