I started to call this post “The Perfect Sentence.” Then I realized perfection is not the goal for most writers. Most of us simply need to get our ideas across without too much confusion. We need to tell our colleagues where next Tuesday’s meeting will be held. We need to explain the data in a report about third-quarter profits. We need to tell our kid’s teacher that we can chaperon the field trip. We need sufficient sentences, not perfect ones.
Perhaps, taking my cue from a popular children’s book, I could have called this post “The Workable, Adequate, Good-Enough, Quite Okay Sentence.” I find that title entertaining, and some of my readers would recognize the allusion. However, some readers wouldn’t recognize it, and search engines don’t parse humor or allusion very well. So I opted for a more straightforward title, which is appropriate for a post about making each sentence communicate as clearly as possible.
The sentence is our basic unit for expressing ideas, and the structure of our sentences can alter how people understand those ideas. So, whether you’re composing a brief email message or an in-depth feasibility study, it’s worthwhile to think about how readers derive meaning from sentences. Today I have two writing tips to help with that.