Tag Archives: subject

Strategies for Writing Concise Descriptions

Concise writing is clear writing. By definition, concise writing communicates in as few words as necessary. Everything in a sentence other than the subject, verb, and object is description. Descriptions cause most of the “fluff” in sentences, but, fortunately, some simple strategies will help you write concise descriptions.

Simplifying ownership

You can show ownership in two ways, with a possessive or a prepositional phrase. Prepositional phrases always make writing less concise. Using possessives, such as the apostrophe-S, will make writing more concise.

Example 1.a, prepositional phrase: The purpose of the CEO is to create an environment for efficiency. (12 words)
Example 1.b, possessive: The CEO’s purpose is to create an environment for efficiency. (10 words)

In example 1, revising the prepositional phrase reduces the sentence’s word count by 2 words. This might not seem significant, but it is. First, if you do this multiple times in a document, the overall effect is more concise writing. You will have removed many unnecessary words. Second, the writing will be stronger overall because you will have removed the weak prepositional phrases.

I only endorse prepositional phrases for ownership when the “owner” is a phrase of 3 or more words. With the possessive, the sentence may be confusing or awkward because the sentence has multiple descriptive words before naming the thing being described. Each case needs to be considered carefully. In example 2, the sentence with the prepositional phrase may be better than sentence with the possessive.

Example 2.a, prepositional phrase: The design of the ergonomic latex foam chair compensates for spine curvature.
Example 2.b, possessive: The ergonomic latex foam chair’s design compensates for spine curvature. Continue reading

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Power Subjects and Direct Writing

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.

Example 1:

“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

Example 2:

“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

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