Advanced Business Writing
Clarity and Flow

Familiar-to-New

Being a good writer at work starts with making each sentence easy to read. Several guidelines help us do that:

• Use active voice.

• Align grammar to story.

• Avoid interruptions within S~V~O~i flow.

However, at work we do not communicate using only single sentences. We communicate in sequences of sentences, in paragraphs.

Therefore, being a good writer at work requires that we make each paragraph easy to follow. Two simple guidelines help us do that:

1. Begin sentences with information familiar to the reader. (recently introduced or generally known)

2. End sentences with information new to the reader.

This makes it easy to move from one sentence to the next. Consider a paragraph with correct grammar and reasonably clear sentences:

The factors contributing to increased revenues, especially in South America, will be presented to illustrate our competitive advantages. Revenue data for sales of new cars, after-market support, and distribution channel margins will provide the basis for this analysis. Profitable sales of our latest car models will depend on our ability to set up distribution channels outside of Brazil and Argentina, as will be shown. Also, we will need to adapt our strategies to changing trade tariffs if we wish to successfully introduce new automotive products.

Now consider a second version with sentence topics that align with the information at the end of prior sentences:

To illustrate our competitive advantages, my presentation will explain the factors contributing to increased revenues in South America. I will base my analysis of revenues on recent data for sales of new cars, after-market support, and distribution channel margins. I can show that if we expand distribution channels beyond Brazil and Argentina, we will experience steady, profitable sales of our latest car models. To successfully introduce new automotive products, however, we will also need to adapt our strategies to changing trade tariffs.

What can we say about this? It flows better. It is easier to read the sentences, because it is easier to follow the thoughts (and vice versa).

We should also consider other versions such as this:

To illustrate our competitive advantages, my presentation will explain the factors contributing to increased revenues in South America. I will base my analysis of revenues on recent data for sales of new cars, after-market support, and distribution channel margins. If distribution channels are expanded beyond Brazil and Argentina we will experience steady, profitable sales of our latest car models. To successfully introduce new automotive products, however, we will also need to adapt our strategies to changing trade tariffs.

The difference (underlined) is passive voice. When it fits, or when it works, or when it is the only solution you can think of, using passive voice is an acceptable way to improve flow among sentences, especially when it also helps to put information at the end of the sentence that can be referenced in the subject of the next sentence.

In summary: whole-paragraph flow is just as important as individual-sentence flow.

Lesson: Familiar-to-New
Module: Clarity and Flow
Course: Advanced Business Writing