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Tag Archive | idea

Lost in Long Sentences?

Written by Lynn Gaertner-Johnston, Syntax Training

When reading essays, books, and novels, many people enjoy traveling through long, complex sentences with twists and turns that lead to a satisfying end. But in business writing, readers want a short, clear path to understanding. Follow the four tips below to edit long sentences.

1. Include just one idea per sentence. When sentences have several ideas, readers need to figure out the relationship between the ideas. They need to suspend their understanding until they get to the period (full stop). In contrast, readers can quickly grasp each one-idea sentence and move on to the next.

The sentence below packs in three ideas. The punctuation makes is easy to recognize them.

I hope you will be able to attend, and if you need more information, please call or email me, and I will be glad to help you.
This revision shows that each idea can be a crisp sentence: I hope you will be able to attend. If you need more information, please call or email me. I will be glad to help you.

Test Yourself Number 1: Revise this three-idea sentence, whose length makes readers move slowly:

Our credit department has requested that you provide a copy of your exempt sales tax document and that you fill out the top and signature portion of the credit application just for assurance that we have the pertinent contact information correct.
Revise the sentence to communicate just one idea per sentence. After you have tried, you can check my revision. It appears at the end of this article.
2. Begin with the subject, not the windup. 
In baseball, the windup is the pitcher’s actions before releasing the ball. Although important to the pitcher, the windup can distract the batter. The same is true of readers: If you begin a sentence with a fancy windup, you may lose your readers before releasing your main idea. Instead, start with your subject.This sentence has a dizzying windup, which makes it too long and complicated:

With over a decade of experience with programming, network security, reverse engineering, cryptography design and cryptanalysis, and attacking protocols, and significant expertise in information security, Lance James provides consultation to businesses ranging from small startups to governments, Fortune 500s, and top financial institutions.
If the sentence began with the subject, Lance James, rather than the long windup, it would be two clearer sentences:
Lance James has over a decade of experience with programming, network security, reverse engineering, cryptography design and cryptanalysis, and attacking protocols, and significant expertise in information security. He provides consultation to businesses ranging from small startups to governments, Fortune 500s, and top financial institutions.
Test Yourself Number 2: Start with the subject rather than the long windup in this sentence, so readers do not struggle to understand its meaning:
By keeping the three critical success factors in mind and talking with your unit manager or your peer coach whenever you find yourself struggling with an employee issue, you should have the greatest opportunity for success as a new supervisor.

My revision appears at the end of the article.

3. When a sentence is too long or has more than one idea, try inserting a period (full stop) in place of the word andSometimes your sentences will ramble on because you have forgotten to take a breath and give your reader one. Replacing and with a period may help, as it would in this sentence:
Thanks for your cooperation on this project and we look forward to meeting with you to discuss the items above.
This revision communicates in two powerful sentences: Thanks for your cooperation. We look forward to meeting with you to discuss the items above.Sometimes replacing and with a period requires the addition of a word. In the sentence below, which word would you use to replace and? 

The navigation panel on the left side of the screen is the same for all contractors and helps them navigate through the site to find what they need quickly.

Your revision might look like mine: The navigation panel on the left side of the screen is the same for all contractors. It helps them navigate through the site to find what they need quickly.

Test Yourself Number 3: Break up this long sentence by inserting a period and replacing and. Then compare your revision with mine, which appears at the end of the article.

Recently there have been several calls and emails from individuals who are using an MS Excel version dated earlier than 2007 and are not able to save their changes based on the instructions provided in the guidelines.

4. Do not let a long list transform your sentence into a solid wall of text. Often you need to include a list in your writing. But a sentence burdened with a long list can become a blur to your reader. If that happens, your reader will not see any of the important information in your list. The solution is to break up the long, heavy sentence into bullet points or short sentences that keep your reader’s attention.

How would you revise this list-heavy sentence?

Your daily work will include counseling managers on issues ranging from major incidents to employee communications and community relations, representing the company with various groups, supporting the needs of individual plants, managing strategic media opportunities and crisis communications, placing community advertising, and publicizing company efforts in environmental stewardship.
This revision helps each point stand out for the reader:
Your daily work will include:
  • Counseling managers on issues ranging from major incidents to employee communications and community relations.
  • Representing the company with various groups.
  • Supporting the needs of individual plants.
  • Managing strategic media opportunities and crisis communications.
  • Placing community advertising.
  • Publicizing company efforts in environmental stewardship.
Test Yourself Number 4: Restructure this long sentence so that each part stands out:
If new information concerning the case should come to your attention, if you should leave the area for more than a few days, or if you should change your address or telephone number, please advise Marie Smith or your insurance agent immediately.
How long is too long? Sometimes long sentences are not difficult to understand. But a document filled with long, complex sentences will slow down readers and could lose them. Strive for an average of no more than 20 words per sentence–15 is better. Also, do not allow yourself to include sentences of more than 35 words in your final draft. If a sentence gets that long, break it in two (or three) or cut words.
Solution to Number 1:
Our credit department has requested that you provide a copy of your exempt sales tax document. Also, please fill out the top and signature portion of the credit application. This step is just for assurance that we have the pertinent contact information correct.
Solution to Number 2:  
You should have the greatest opportunity for success as a new supervisor if you do these two things: Keep the three critical success factors in mind. Talk with your unit manager or your peer coach whenever you find yourself struggling with an employee issue.
Solution to Number 3:
Recently there have been several calls and emails from individuals who are using an MS Excel version dated earlier than 2007. They are not able to save their changes based on the instructions provided in the guidelines.
Solution to Number 4: 
Please immediately advise Marie Smith or your insurance agent if any of these occurs:
  • New information concerning the case comes to your attention.

  • You leave the area for more than a few days.

  • You change your address or telephone number.

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Character Feelings

You can describe your character’s feelings in more exact terms than just “happy” or “sad.” Check these lists for the exact nuance to describe your character’s intensity of feelings.

Intensity of
Feelings
HAPPY SAD ANGRY CONFUSED
High Elated
Excited
Overjoyed
Thrilled
Exuberant
Ecstatic
Fired up
Delighted
Depressed
Disappointed
Alone
Hurt
Left out
Dejected
Hopeless
Sorrowful
Crushed
Furious
Enraged
Outraged
Aggrivated
Irate
Seething
Bewildered
Trapped
Troubled
Desperate
Lost
Medium Cheerful
Up
Good
Relieved
Satisfied
Contented
Heartbroken
Down
Upset
Distressed
Regret
Upset
Mad
Annoyed
Frustrated
Agitated
Hot
Disgusted
Disorganized
Foggy
Misplaced
Disoriented
Mixed up
Mild Glad
Content
Satisfied
Pleasant
Fine
Mellow
Pleased
Unhappy
Moody
Blue
Sorry
Lost
Bad
Dissatisfied
Perturbed
Uptight
Dismayed
Put out
Irritated
Touchy
Unsure
Puzzled
Bothered
Uncomfortable
Undecided
Baffled
Perplexed
Intensity of
Feelings
AFRAID WEAK STRONG GUILTY
High Terrified
Horrified
Scared stiff
Petrified
Fearful
Panicky
Helpless
Hopeless
Beat
Overwhelmed
Impotent
Small
Exhausted
Drained
Powerful
Aggressive
Gung ho
Potent
Super
Forceful
Proud
Determined
Sorrowful
Remorseful
Ashamed
Unworthy
Worthless
Medium Scared
Frightened
Threatened
Insecure
Uneasy
Shocked
Dependent
Incapable
Lifeless
Tired
Rundown
Lazy
Insecure
Shy
Energetic
Capable
Confident
Persuasive
Sure
Sorry
Lowdown
Sneaky
Mild Apprehensive
Nervous
Worried
Timid
Unsure
Anxious
Unsatisfied
Under par
Shaky
Unsure
Soft
Lethargic
Inadequate
Secure
Durable
Adequate
Able
Capable
Embarrassed

Via http://www.sff.net

IDEAs: 20 more quotes

Part 1

 

21.“We often refuse to accept an idea merely because the tone of voice in which it has been expressed is unsympathetic to us.”- Friedrich Nietzche

 

22. “I know quite certainly that I myself have no special talent. Curiosity, obsession and dogged endurance, combined with self-criticism, have brought me to my ideas.” – Albert Einstein

 

23.“A pile of rocks ceases to be a rock when somebody contemplates it with the idea of a cathedral in mind.” – Antoine St. Exupery

 

24. “If you want to kill any idea in the world, get a committee working on it.” – Charles Kettering

 

25.“Right now it’s only a notion, but I think I can get the money to make it into a concept, and later turn it into an idea.” – Woody Allen

 

26. “I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else.” – Pablo Picasso

 

27.“New ideas pass through three periods: 1) It can’t be done; 2) It probably can be done, but it’s not worth doing; 3) I knew it was a good idea all along!” – Arthur C. Clarke

 

28. “Almost all really new ideas have a certain aspect of foolishness when they are just produced.” – Alfred North Whitehead

 

29.“Adults are always asking little kids what they want to be when they grow up because they’re looking for ideas.” – Paula Poundstone

 

30. “If I have a thousand ideas and only one turns out to be good, I am satisfied.” – Alfred Noble

 

31.“Money never starts an idea; it is the idea that starts the money.” – William J. Cameron

 

32. “No idea is so outlandish that it should not be considered.” – Winston Churchill

 

33.“If you are possessed by an idea, you find it expressed everywhere, you even smell it.” – Thomas Mann

 

34. “The ability to express an idea is well nigh as important as the idea itself.” – Bernard Baruch

 

35.“You can kill a man, but you can’t kill an idea.” – Medgar Evers

 

36. “The man with a new idea is a crank — until the idea succeeds.” -Mark Twain

 

37.“An idea is salvation by imagination.” – Frank Lloyd Wright

 

38. “I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.” – John Cage

 

39.“The new idea either finds a champion or it dies. No ordinary involvement with a new idea provides the energy required to cope with the indifference and resistance that change provokes.” – Tom Peters

 

40. “Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward: they may be beaten, but they may start a winning game.” – Goethe

 

Via http://www.ideachampions.com

 

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20 quotes on IDEAs

1. “If at first, the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.” – Albert Einstein

2. “If you do not express your own original ideas, if you do not listen to your own being, you will have betrayed yourself.” – Rollo May

3. “An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.” – Oscar Wilde

4. “Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.” – John Steinbeck

5. “The way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas and throw the bad ones away.” – Linus Pauling

6. “There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come.” – Victor Hugo

7. “Ideas won’t keep. Something must be done about them.” – Alfred North Whitehead

8. “A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn; it can be stabbed to death by a quip and worried to death by a frown on the right man’s brow.” – Ovid

9. “You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.” – Lee Iacocca

10. “No grand idea was ever born in a conference, but a lot of foolish ideas have died there.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

11. “Nearly every man who develops an idea works it up to the point where it looks impossible, and then he gets discouraged. That’s not the place to become discouraged.” – Thomas Edison

12. “It is the essence of genius to make use of the simplest ideas.” – Charles Peguy

13. “Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it is the only one you have.” – Emile Chartier

14. “I had a monumental idea this morning, but I didn’t like it.” – Samuel Goldwyn

15. “An idea, like a ghost, must be spoken to a little before it will explain itself.” – Charles Dickens

16. “Why is it I always get my best ideas while shaving?” – Albert Einstein

17. “One’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes

18. “The air is full of ideas. They are knocking you in the head all the time. You only have to know what you want, then forget it, and go about your business. Suddenly, the idea will come through. It was there all the time.” – Henry Ford

19. “Capital isn’t that important in business. Experience isn’t that important. You can get both of these things. What is important is ideas.” – Harvey Firestone

20. “A mediocre idea that generates enthusiasm will go further than a great idea that inspires no one.” – Mary Kay Ash

Via http://www.ideachampions.com

I challenge you: just finish it

I know that most of the times I am just like a mathematician who loses interest in the problem once they find there is a solution.

I cannot focus my attention on a single thing.

In my head a new idea is always impeccable and I am surefooted and adequate to doing it. I imagine the end result, the  rapture, the joy, and… my interest evaporates.

  • Doable = No challenge.

  • No challenge = No interest = Not for me (I have a new idea!)

Same with reading. In the past four years there were just two periods when I have been reading just one book at a time: the Harry Potter and later the Hunger series. My other books in the queue are just equally interesting, so I alternate between all of them. 30 pages of this one, 20% of the other.  The books are now over 200 (two hundred). Yep. This is an issue.

  • Starting isn’t Useful Without Finishing

Starting interesting things is a worthwhile trait, but perhaps a more important one is finishing those things. The world is full of half-finished projects which could have been great if the fire-starter hadn’t burnt out a month or two in.

The courage to start things needs to be matched with the discipline to see them through. They’re both critical, and my guess is that you can probably assess which one you need to work on.

http://www.scotthyoung.com/blog/2012/02/19/just-finish-it/

What is it with my finished projects?

The unexpected happens.

My sewing: I start with an idea (and a pattern) and end up with a completely different outcome. Get-go with a skirt pattern, end up with a dress. (too much imagination)
My blogging: You can bet that what you are reading now are not the perfect ideas, dressed in pluperfect words, dancing in excellent grammar lines that I had in my mind 30 minutes ago… (this is nothing like it)

And I do not like the unexpected. Nope, no surprises for my liking.

Ahem…decide!

The first small step.

I made my decision to finish the 240 book lot before thinking about buying or borrowing new one.

Three days in the venture, I already have finished 3 books, and today will be the fourth and the fifth.

To You

So, as much as I challenge myself, I challenge you: just finish it.

Whether it is a book you read/write, a project, or a simple task, don’t always strive for perfection at any cost (paralysing you from doing a thing), reach for the end line. Finish. Then go back, polish, edit, revise, re-write, re-do, but first have it complete. You will clear you mind for the new ideas instead of rethinking the pending ones. “Truth will sooner come out from error than from confusion.” ~Francis Bacon

Just do it. Finish

(and then tell me how you did it, I still learn),

P.S. 11 hours later my finish-two-books-today mission is complete. How about your progress? I am eager to know (but also can wait). 🙂

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