Sei sulla pagina 1di 9

University of El Salvador

Western Multidisciplinary Campus


Foreign Language Department
English Composition I
Handout 4

Responsible: Professor Darlene Mata


Unit 1 topic 4: Overloaded, Padded and Empty Sentences

Overloaded Sentences
Avoid sentences that contain more information than the reader can
easily follow. Instead, divide such sentences into more manageable
pieces that can be easily grasped.
Weak-

Because researchers

interested

in speech

synthesis

and

automatic recognition need to find rules that improve intelligibility of


speech, they need to study the psychological determinants more closely
before they can solve what has become a complex set of questions.
Improved- Researchers interested in speech synthesis and automatic
recognition need to find rules that improve intelligibility of speech.
Consequently, they need to study the psychological determinants more
closely before they can solve what has become a complex set of
questions.
Weak- In response to the leak history of the pipe made of 304-L
stainless

steel,

work

request,

IJ-117,

was

prepared

by

Plant

Maintenance in August of 1989 to replace approximately 55 feet of the


HLD 304-L pipe--the entire segment running from the "cells" area to the
point in the drainage system that turns south to exit the building--with
pipe made of a different material, Iconel 600 (see Figure).
Improved- Plant Maintenance responded to the leak history of the
stainless steel pipe (304-L) with a work request in August 1989 to
replace a 55-foot section with Iconel 600 pipe. This section made up the
entire pipe segment running from the "cells" area to a point where the
drainage system turns south to exit the building (see Figure N).
Length is often blamed for sentences going awry, but the problem is
more complex than that because a long sentence sometimes works. Take
Mark Twains beautiful example:
1

At times he may indulge himself with a long one [sentence], but he will
make sure there are no folds in it, no vaguenesses, no parenthetical
interruptions of its view as a whole; when he has done with it, it wont be
a sea-serpent with half of its arches under the water; it will be a torchlight procession. (57 words)
Long sentences can become confusing when we put too much
information in brackets, overuse which clauses or make our subjects
too wordy.
Overloading sentences with information in brackets

We sometimes try to make our sentences convey too much information


by embedding extra information in brackets. Take this sentence from a
Westpac credit card brochure about international travel insurance.
A cardholder becomes eligible for this Overseas travel insurance when,
before leaving Australia on an overseas journey, they have a return
overseas travel ticket, and A$500 of each of their prepaid travel costs
(i.e. cost of their return overseas travel ticket, and/or airport/departure
taxes; and/or their prepaid overseas accommodation/travel; and/or their
other prepaid overseas itinerary items) have been charged to the
cardholders eligible credit card account. (71 words)
I think it means that you have to have a return ticket before you leave
the country and pre-pay at least $500 of your overseas travel expenses,
including your ticket, with your credit card.
If you take out the information in brackets, the sentence is a bit easier.
A cardholder becomes eligible for this Overseas travel insurance when,
before leaving Australia on an overseas journey, they have a return
overseas travel ticket, and A$500 of each of their prepaid travel costs
have been charged to the cardholders eligible credit card account.
Although clearer this sentence still needs rewriting because the word
each is confusing, given that the items in brackets are followed by
and/or. Also it raises questions: for example, if I pay for my
2

accommodation with cash or another credit card, am I still eligible for


insurance?
The information in brackets could have been an additional sentence
using bullet points.
Overseas travel expenses include the costs of:
Return ticket and airport departure taxes
Prepaid overseas accommodation, travel and itinerary items
Trying to tweak this sentence still doesnt work because the thinking
behind it isnt clear. Sometimes you just have to start again and work
out what you are trying to say.
Overloading them with too much information in which
clauses

Take this example that I found in the Australian Financial Review during
the GFC.
For example, the conversion of former US investment banking giants
Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley into commercial banks (which have
tougher capital requirements) had the unintended consequence of
squeezing funding to hedge funds which in turn has exacerbated their
dumping of assets across world markets. (45 words)
I have highlighted which as causing the sentence overload, but it has
an additional problem. I am not sure who their relates to (unclear
antecedent) whos doing the dumping?
Overloading the subject with too many words
Sentences that have a lengthy subject (nominal group or noun phrase)
are difficult to read.
[The young male rats that were from the same colony as the rats with
symptoms of the disease, but which do not show sign of the disease at
this stage of their development] were used as the control group.
Rewritten to make the subject shorter:
3

[The symptom-free young male rats] were used as the control group.
These rats were from the same colony as the rats showing symptoms of
the disease.
What other causes of overloaded sentences have you noticed?
Writing is less about putting words on a page or screen than it is about
putting

thoughts

in

order.

Our job as writers is to clarify the world and ideas for our audience. That
means illuminatingshowing something that was hidden beforeand
simplifyingsorting out ideas, phenomena and events that are tangled
and

difficult

to

understand.

Consider these tangled ideas. By the way, I invented none of the


examples Im about to show you. Theyre all taken from published
documents or from former students. In either case, the writers should
never have let anyone else see them.

We were informed of your governments new initiative to link


young people about to graduate from post-secondary education
with small businesses who need skilled employment candidates by
a teacher from Saskatchewan who is a member of our team of
educators that is championing the inclusion of health literacy into
high-school curricula.

How many ideas are crammed into that one sentence? Yes, its
grammatically correct, but it has 5 dependent clauses, 9 prepositional
phrases and 51 words. No, Im not going to give an eighth-grade lesson
in grammar or parsing sentences. Im saying thats too much for any
audience. There are at least 14 different, if linked ideas in it.
You have learned a sentence is a single complete thought. While it
makes sense to link thoughts together, when you get a chain long
enough to wrap around your winter tires, its too long.
How about this one:

As he suggests, the binary logic of many sociological texts


encourages an Eurocentric analysis that conceptually constructs
4

an a historical, apolitical social science which avoids an analysis of


the political and economic exploitation that is associated with
racial and ethnic prejudice and discrimination.
That one starts with binary logic, goes through sociology, history,
politics and social science, some other ideas and ends up with
discrimination. Its like wandering in a college campus and wondering
how you got to the garbage room when you started in the computer lab
and were hoping to get to the caf.
I call these overloaded sentencesthey just cannot support that much
information. By the time the readers get to the end of a sentence like
that, theyve forgotten the beginning.
Heres one from fiction:

Had he known that Ralph had managed to break into the


apartment and wire it quickly before he had followed the three of
them to the video store, Andy might have given a small bit of
thought to the intelligence of listing a good many words that
clearly indicated his belief that his pursuers were idiots, but he
didnt, much to the displeasure of his unseen audience.

Organizational problem
Sentence overload is caused when you have so much to say and
you try to get it all out at once. The solution: get a GRIP on your
sentences as well as your whole document:

Goal: what are you trying to accomplish with these thoughts? What
do you want your readers to do after reading?

Reader: whom are you saying it to? What do they already know,
what do you want them to know?

Idea: of all the ideas in that long, convoluted sentence, which is


the most important?

Plan:

what

other

information

does

the

audience

need

to

understand your main point? How is this other information related


to the main point?
Now, organize it. Put the most important idea first. If two ideas are
equally important, make each one the main part of a separate sentence.
5

Then use less important ideas as dependent clauses or qualifying


phrases.

You dont always have to repeat qualifying information:

Notably, policymakers in India have made financial inclusion a


priority, according to speaker LD Patel, Deputy director of the XXX
of India, where all Indian institutions have been requested by the
central

regulatory

department

of

India

to

formulate

board

approved educational inclusion plans for the next three years.


The Indian government has asked all Indian institutions to develop
plans to bring education to the poorest communities within three
years, said LD Patel, Deputy Director of the XXX.
Sometimes, it seems as if the writer changed his or her mind halfway
through the sentence:

It highlights the growing importance and recognition of healthy


nutrition continues to gain in Canada and internationally with the
availability of more resources, information and good practices to
help

develop

strategic

priorities,

research,

evaluation

and

programs.
The importance

of

healthy

nutrition

is

gaining

recognition

internationally. There are more resources, information and good


practices available to help develop strategic priorities, research,
evaluation and programs.

Based on last years results, and since the target audience is very
well-defined and the product was developed for, and extensively
tested with that audience, we expect the following results in
2010/11:
The product was developed for a specific audience and tested with
it. Based on those results, we can expect the following in 20102011:
From fiction:

Tristan blinked, his head moving up, not realizing he was so tired,
normally he was more than energized and almost always ready to
6

go.
This actually combines several problems common in fiction from
new writers: more detail than the reader needs or wants, and
telling
Tristans

instead
head

of

showing.

nodded

would

involuntarily.

amend

Whats

up,

it

to:

Tristan?

Annabella asked. Youre usually ready to go.


Challenges:
Here is a couple that I received from students. My challenge to you is to
turn these into readable prose. Leave your responses in the Comments
box, below.

Have fun!
1: Management is pleased to be receiving a positive response from
employees about the relocation of headquarters from Toronto to Calgary,
although there are some concerns about the merger due to the cultural
differences between the Calgary employees versus those from Toronto,
so in response to growing concerns, management is taking action in
order to ensure co-operation and compatibility between teams.
2. I recently completed a kitchen remodel and on July 2 I ordered by
telephone double-glazed, oak French doors from Quality Doors, Inc, that
were required for this job, which when they arrived on July 25, my
carpenter told me were cut too small, measuring total of 2.31 square
metres wide instead of 2.33 square metres wide, so my carpenter
offered rebuild the opening but charging me for his time $455.50
because I waited three weeks for these doors, and my clients wanted
them installed immediately.

Improving Empty and Padded Sentences


A paragraph should not include sentences that do not say anything
worth saying. These sentences are sometimes called empty sentences.
The first sentence in this pair is empty; the second is not:
7

Cairo,

Egypt,

is

large

city

because

it

is

so

vast.

Cairo, Egypt, is a city of about eight million people.


Nor should a paragraph include sentences that use unnecessary words.
These sentences are sometimes called padded sentences. The first
sentence in this pair is padded; the second is not:
It is, of course, a fact that Cairo is located on the River Nile.
Cairo is located on the River Nile.

Empty & Padded Sentences Exercise


Revise each padded sentence. Cut unnecessary words and
phrases.
1. School was closed due to the fact that there was a snowstorm.
______________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________
2. Last summer, I had the good luck to go during the summer to a
mountain camp in the mountains of New York State.
______________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________
3. What I wanted to say was that the baseball game in being broadcast
right now on channel 24 as a matter of fact.
______________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________
Revise each empty sentence. Remove the empty sentence.
1. The principals speech couldnt be heard by those of us in the back
row. We were unable to hear what she was saying. Later, I learned the
topic was Goals for our Music Program.
______________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________
2. About 55 percent of all the voters voted against the corporations
management. Thats more than half of all voters. It just goes to show
you how foolish people can be.
______________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________
What happens when we overload sentences?