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Writing for the Web

Chapter 3 - Writing a Sentence for the Web

Sentence Structure

Every English sentence needs a subject (noun) and a predicate (conjugated verb). Most sentences also have a direct object, prepositional phrase, adverb or adverbial phrase, or predicate adjective or predicate nominative. Example: The police captured the fugitive. Subject (Police) + Predicate (Captured) + Direct Object (Fugitive)

Not Too Many Thoughts Per Sentence

Readers get confused if they have to digest too much information in one sentence. Sentences exist to break up thoughts into logical bits of information that we can easily digest. Stop a sentence at the end of one main message with a period and start a new thought with a capital letter.

Sentence Length

Most professional writers agree that the average sentence length of good writing does not exceed 30 words per sentence. Many writers believe that the ideal average is 25 words per sentence. Such a word count promotes sophisticated persuasive writing that is easy to read but not too choppy. Note that we are talking about averages. Some sentences in your document might have 50 words while others might have 15 words. Varying the number of words in your sentences makes your document more interesting for the reader and creates staying power.

Inverting Sentences

To help the reader from becoming bored, break your writing pattern by inverting the order of your sentences. For example, you can write: After dinner, I ate a perfect piece of strawberry pie. You can also write: I ate a perfect piece of strawberry pie after dinner.

Parallel Construction

Each part of a series of things in a sentence should appear in the same structure. You are not using parallel construction if you write: Today I am going to eat pizza, onion soup, and take a long hike across town. You are using parallel construction if you write: Regular exercise will help you reduce your chances of getting osteoporosis, improve your outlook on life, and make your clothes fit better. You are also using parallel construction if you write: The elite athlete runs not only with speed but also with grace.

Making a List

If you have a long-winded sentence containing many complex qualifications, you can break it apart by writing the sentence in the form of a list. Here is an example of a proper list.

Joe earned the MVP trophy by:

1. training hard 5 days a week;
2. eating a healthy diet;
3. sleeping 9 hours every night;
4. trying his best at every game;
5. scoring the most assists and goals; and
6. attending the Ultradave Fitness and Skills Program.

Introduce the list with a colon. After the colon, indent and number each item of the list. Begin each item with a lower case letter and end each item with a semicolon. Place and or or after the next-to-last item on the list. Make each part of the list grammatically the same, and make sure that each item in the list follows the rules of parallel construction. Wouldn't that sentence be better as a list?

Go to Chapter 4 - The Powerful Verb --- Go Back to Chapter 2 - Vocabulary
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