Clear Technical Writing
Engaging Action

Readability 2

Technical topics are usually complex. Writing about them often requires the use of long sentences. To keep your reader engaged in the middle of those long sentences, use symmetry and promotion to make the reading easier.

Symmetry

In a long sentence, asymmetry makes your reader work harder than necessary.

Requiring an early independent review will make it easier for management to accept that designs are adequately vetted and engineers to be confident their efforts will not be wasted.

Let's break this down into parts.

Requiring an early independent review
will make it easier
for management to accept that
designs are adequately vetted
and
engineers to be confident
their efforts will not be wasted.

Now it's easier to see where we can change and add words to make things more parallel, or symmetrical.

Requiring an early independent review
will make it easier
for managers to accept that
designs will be adequately vetted
and
for engineers to believe that
their efforts will not be wasted.

This symmetry might not be noticed by your reader. But it will make the reading more engaging.

Promotion

There are three rules to promotion in long sentences.

  1. Promote the Subject.
  2. Promote the Verb.
  3. Promote the Object.

Yes, that sounds silly. But it makes the point with authority. Let's flesh out the three rules as clear instructions.

  1. Place the Subject closer to the beginning of the sentence.
  2. Place the Verb closer to the Subject.
  3. Place the Object closer to the Verb.

Rule 1 in action:

With an order for the 3T version of the MRI machines for more than half of their locations, our best client surprised everyone in the sales department.

Our best client surprised everyone in the sales department with an order for the 3T version of the MRI machines for more than half of their locations.

Rule 2 in action:

A new client, on the day before the end of this sales quarter, purchased all three of our refurbished MRI machines.

A new client purchased all three of our refurbished MRI machines on the day before the end of this sales quarter.

Rule 3 in action:

The sales department surveyed, without presenting another sales pitch for the new MRI machines, all of our existing customers.

The sales department surveyed all of our existing customers without presenting another sales pitch for the new MRI machines.

Note 1: Extra information can usually be placed at the end of the sentence with little impact on the reader.

Note 2: Extra information can be placed at the beginning if it improves the flow of reading from the prior sentence.

The main reason we do not promote automatically is that we are proud of the work we are writing about. We can't wait to include all the supporting information and detailed thinking. We are afraid that readers will not fully appreciate our contribution if they don't hear it all at once.

We do not need to be afraid. We should give our readers the credit they are due by engaging them as equals. They are reading at work and will exhibit some patience, especially if you make the reading easy for them.

Lesson: Readability 2
Module: Engaging Action
Course: Clear Technical Writing