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Sentence Clarity

Oftentimes students struggle the most with sentence clarity, because problems can come from a multitude of sources, and because problems with sentence clarity are difficult for unskilled writers to find in their own writing.

One of the most common problems is that students write without giving the reader all the necessary information.  Because the student knows the information he or she fills in the gaps while reading his or her own work, without even realizing that there are gaps.  However, the reader only has access to what is on the written page, and not what the writer was thinking.  Therefore, the reader doesn’t have all the necessary information to understand what the writer is trying to say.

Another common problem is that students write colloquially, or in a stream of consciousness.  The reader has a difficult time locating the parts of the sentences (e.g., noun, verb, etc.) or can locate them but doesn’t know how they fit together.  A somewhat easy solution to this problem is to read your work out loud to yourself.  Sentences that lack clarity will usually not sound as well as clear sentences.

Another problem is that students try to sound smart by using big words, or using lots of words.  Sentence clarity is all about using as few words as possible to effectively communicate your point.  Being wordy makes it more difficult to follow your point.  Additionally, big words used incorrectly are distracting.  If you can communicate your point concisely, you look very clever.

To find problems with sentence clarity, ask friends, family members, and classmates to read your work (check with your instructor to ensure that is permitted).  It doesn’t take any special skill or training to be able to identify when the writing doesn’t make sense.  Letting your instructor be the first person to read your writing is the most costly way to find out your writing isn’t clear.