Avoid Long Subjects in Academic Writing

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Academic writing can be difficult for researchers. Expressing important ideas found in the research can be a difficult task. A lack of clarity can even lead to a manuscript being rejected by a publisher. There are many grammar and sentence structure rules that an academic writer needs to know. Avoiding long subjects in sentences is a good place to start.

The Importance of Subject-Verb Agreement

Effective sentence construction is vital in academic writing. Firstly, it is important to know that each sentence contains a subject and a predicate. The subject is the noun performing an action and the predicate is the verb describing the action. Related to this is the subject-verb agreement. In academic writing, subject-verb agreement provides clarity for your ideas and can illustrate your abilities as a writer. Here is an example of effective subject-verb agreement. The subject is underlined and the verb is in bold:

  • The boss of the company gave his employees a raise.

In this example, it is clear that the person performing the action is “The boss of the company” and the action performed is the verb “gave”, which is the past tense of “to give”.

Without subject-verb agreement, a sentence might seem awkward and its meaning might be unclear. These errors can lead to a lack of clarity in your ideas, which could result in less credibility in your research. However, the subject in the sentence is long. Let us find out how this could be an issue.

The Negative Impact of Long Subjects

Academic writing is formal and needs to be clear. Long subjects in academic writing can create confusion. Here are some examples of subjects that are too long.

  • When I am looking for a movie to watch, I often choose science-fiction.
  • For Bill to take me to my favorite restaurant on my birthday was very thoughtful.
  • Being able to go to the museum on my day was really nice.

In each example, the subject is long and the predicate is short. Placing all of that information in a long subject means that it takes a longer time to get to the point of the sentence. For example, it takes longer to understand what type of movie the subject “I” likes to watch. This sentence structure is awkward, less clear, and more difficult to read.

The same sentences could be written more clearly with shorter subjects. This gives the reader an simpler sentence which is also easy to understand. Let’s look at our examples again, but with a revised sentence structure.

  • When I am looking for a movie to watch, I often choose science-fiction.
    • Revised sentence: I often choose science-fiction when I am looking for a movie to watch.
  • For Bill to take me to my favorite restaurant on my birthday was very thoughtful.
    • Revised sentence: It was very thoughtful of Bill to take me to my favorite restaurant on my birthday.
  • Being able to go to the museum on my day off was really nice
    • Revised sentence: It was really nice to go to the museum on my day off.

Becoming a Better Writer

Can you see the difference between each set of examples? Is it clear how the revised sentences are easier to read? If you answer yes to both of these questions, then you are on your way to becoming a better academic writer. It is important to know the foundations of writing, including the rules of grammar. With this foundation, you will be able to present your ideas more clearly, which could lead to more opportunities for publication.

How do you avoid long subjects in academic writing? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.


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