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Editing Tip: Strategies for Splitting Long Sentences

Summary

This article provides multiple tips for breaking up complicated sentences and improving the clarity of your work in the process.

In a previous article, we discussed three different types of long sentences that can be divided into two or more sentences without losing meaning. In this article, we outline three specific indicators of where a lengthy sentence can be split.

Coordinating conjunctions

These conjunctions (and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet) are used to connect two independent clauses, each of which has its own subject and verb, or an independent clause and a dependent clause. As coordinating conjunctions often link or contrast two separate ideas or list two separate actions, they serve as a natural break between the parts of a sentence. For example: <ul> <li> After the assay was performed in triplicate, we generated a standard curve for IL-2 and determined the concentrations of the cytokine in the samples, which exhibited enhanced protein levels, implying that the treatment stimulated more secretion in condition A than in condition B. (one long sentence)</li> </ul> <ul> <li> After the assay was performed in triplicate, we generated a standard curve for IL-2. Additionally, we determined the concentrations of the cytokine in the samples, which exhibited enhanced protein levels, implying that the treatment stimulated more secretion in condition A than in condition B. (two shorter sentences)</li> </ul>

Here, the dependent clause “determined…” presents a second action (the first is “generated…”). Note that once the sentence is split into two, the conjunction must be replaced with an appropriate transitional term (“Additionally” instead of “and”).

Which

The word which is used to add a nonrestrictive element to a sentence. This element is not critical to the sentence’s meaning and thus can be created into a new sentence, if necessary. The use of a demonstrative pronoun may then be helpful for clarifying the connection between the two resultant sentences. Reminding your reader of the subject in the second sentence may also minimize ambiguity. Along these lines, “These samples” was used to replace “…, which” in the following example: <ul> <li> After the assay was performed in triplicate, we generated a standard curve for IL-2 and determined the concentrations of the cytokine in the samples, which exhibited enhanced protein levels, implying that the treatment stimulated more secretion in condition A than in condition B. (one long sentence)</li> </ul> <ul> <li> After the assay was performed in triplicate, we generated a standard curve for IL-2 and determined the concentrations of the cytokine in the samples. These samples exhibited enhanced protein levels, implying that the treatment stimulated more secretion in condition A than in condition B. (two shorter sentences)</li> </ul>

Participial phrases

This type of phrase often begins with a verb form ending in -ing and functions as an adjective. As for the term which, a participial phrase at the end of a sentence may provide nonessential information. In other words, the sentence could stand alone if that information were allocated to a separate sentence, as demonstrated below: <ul> <li> After the assay was performed in triplicate, we generated a standard curve for IL-2 and determined the concentrations of the cytokine in the samples, which exhibited enhanced protein levels, implying that the treatment stimulated more secretion in condition A than in condition B. (one long sentence)</li> </ul> <ul> <li> After the assay was performed in triplicate, we generated a standard curve for IL-2 and determined the concentrations of the cytokine in the samples, which exhibited enhanced protein levels. This finding implied that the treatment stimulated more secretion in condition A than in condition B. (two shorter sentences)</li> </ul>

As before, a demonstrative pronoun and a subject were added to the new sentence for clarity.

Of course, more than one of the above strategies could be implemented to further reduce the length of a single sentence. Moreover, note that if the new sentences generated by these techniques are closely related, a semicolon may be preferable over a period to emphasize this relationship.

We hope that these three indicators will help you to make your writing more concise. If you have any questions or comments, please email us at [email protected]. Best wishes!

Tags Writing a manuscript Language editing Editing tips Sentence and paragraph structure Clarity in writing Punctuation Grammar

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