(From Concise Guide to Technical and Academic Writing.)
An expert academic or technical writer needs only a few basic sentence patterns to produce easy-to-understand writing. Each of the sentence patterns below will result in clear academic or technical writing. However, do not use any one pattern more than twice in a row to prevent the writing from sounding repetitive and boring. Also, use the more complex sentence patterns less frequently. They are more challenging for the reader and may make the writing overall more complex than necessary.
All effective sentence patterns start with the Subject-Verb-Object (S-V-O) sentence structure. Optional components are additional S-V-O structures and descriptive words, phrases, and clauses (D), which can be placed in various locations.
In the samples below, the subjects are underlined, and the main verbs are in italics.
1. Simple sentence (S-V-O): A simple sentence has one subject–verb pair. It starts with the subject (or an adjective and the subject). The subject is immediately followed by the verb (or an adverb and the verb). A simple sentence may contain an object.
Example 1: The computer desktop provides access to your files. Continue reading
The subject of the sentence focuses the readers’ attention because it answers the question “Who?” The writer is telling the reader, “This is what the sentence is about.” Because the subject of the sentence is so important, direct writing requires the writer to choose the subject carefully.
Grammatical and Meaningful Subjects: A sentence has two types of subjects: the grammatical subject and the meaningful subject.
The grammatical subject is the word or phrase in the subject’s position, typically before the main verb. It serves the grammatical role of subject and determines what the main verb will be.
“Veterinarians have discovered a new form of feline leukemia.”
Who (subject) = veterinarians
Did what (main verb) = have discovered
To whom/what (object) = a new form of feline leukemia
“Fourteen members of Congress changed party affiliation during the campaign.”
Who (subject) = fourteen members of Congress
Did what (main verb) = changed
To whom/what (object) = party affiliation
In the examples above, the grammatical subjects are veterinarians and fourteen members of Congress. These are the words before the main verb (i.e., have discovered, changed), and they determine what the main verb will be. They serve the grammatical function of the subject, so they are called the grammatical subject. Every complete sentence has at least one grammatical subject. Continue reading