The hypothesis of the article is that you can make your writing much easier to understand by following the recommended structure, without dumbing it down or even removing technical terms.
It uses before/after examples to illustrate the following 7 recommendations:
- Follow a grammatical subject as soon as possible with its verb.
- Place in the stress position (at the end of a sentence) the “new information” you want the reader to emphasize.
- Place the person or thing whose “story” a sentence is telling at the beginning of the sentence, in the topic position.
- Place appropriate “old information” (material already stated in the discourse) in the topic position for linkage backward and contextualization forward.
- Articulate the action of every clause or sentence in its verb.
- In general, provide context for your reader before asking that reader to consider anything new.
- In general, try to ensure that the relative emphases of the substance coincide with the relative expectations for emphasis raised by the structure.
It challenged my opinions a) that I should always prefer active voice over passive voice and b) that a shorter sentence is preferrable to a longer one.
Applying the proposed structure to a text also helps identify logic gaps.
I’d say it’s a must-read for anybody who conveys complex ideas with words.
Link: [The science of scientific writing] via www.unc.edu