Have you ever thought about how golf courses are laid out?
Not far from the green of one hole is the tee for the next. Because
one hole is linked to another in this logical green-to-tee fashion, you
save walking distance and time.
Makes sense, doesn't it? There's a reason golf courses are not laid
out green-to-green. Who would want to finish playing one hole and then
have to walk the distance of a fairway to get to the next tee?
Well-constructed sentences work the same way. They maintain both large
links (between sentences) and little links (within sentences).
Most writers know about the large links. They know one sentence should
follow logically from another. They might even know that this sentence-to-sentence
linking can be achieved by placing old information at the beginning of
each sentence and new information at the end. (In Style: Ten Lessons
in Clarity and Grace, Joseph Williams calls this the principle of "something
Consider, for example, this sentence: "The little links are equally
important." Note that the new information comes not at the end but
at the beginning of the sentence. Now try reversing the sentence parts
so that they follow the something old/something new principle: "Equally
important are the little links."
Can you see how the order of the revised sentence leads the reader--logically,
coherently, and efficiently--from what has been developed (something old)
to what will be developed (something new)? This method of linking is particularly
useful in a topic sentence connecting the thought of one paragraph to the
Equally important as sentence-to-sentence links are the little links
within sentences. There are two types of internal connections you
should maintain in green-to-tee order:
Do not split comparative or adjective phrases.
We often make comparisons using phrases such as such as, different
from, similar to, and other than. When we split the adjective
phrase ("such phrases as" rather than "phrases
such as"), we create what Williams calls a "hitch in the
rhythm of a sentence." To avoid this minor break in continuity, place
the entire phrase after the noun rather than split it around the noun.
For example, change "The pro used as creative a design as
any in existence in laying out this golf course" to "The pro
used a design as creative as any in existence . . ."
See if you can reconnect the split adjective phrases in these sentences:
"She offered a different proposal from mine."
"I offered a similar proposal to John's."
"We acted for other reasons than those you cited."
If you would like to practice editing more sentences, click on "Exercises
linked to columns" on my Web page.
Use passive, not active, constructions in certain relative clauses.
A second technique for maintaining continuity and coherence is to begin
a relative dependent clause (a clause that relates to the main clause)
with an adjective rather than with a noun. To achieve this order, use a
passive construction to introduce the dependent clause.
For example, compare the momentary discontinuity in "We are studying
advertisement strategies other companies use to recruit minorities"
with the smoother connection in "We are studying advertisement strategies
used by other companies to recruit minorities."
See if you can eliminate the "hitches" in these sentences:
"Information our engineers provide to our marketing staff must
"The plan our marketing staff unveiled is ambitious."
"A goal all writers share is clarity."
Again, you can visit my Web page for more practice.
In writing as in life, it's the links that count. Or as the 19th century
English author Thomas De Quincey once wrote, "All fluent and effective
composition depends on the connections."
I wonder if De Quincey ever played golf.