Polish and Revise Your Sentences to Make Your Research Reports Better
Our school teachers were right: Learning how to write effectively makes a huge difference if your job involves communication. This applies to market research and marketing. Improving your writing will help you write better reports, better surveys, and better campaigns.
It’s not that hard. You need not learn the art of essays, novels, dissertations, or structured narratives. What most writers need to learn is simply better ways of putting their words together: simple nouns, verbs, adjectives, and so on. Most of us do that all the time when we talk.
Here are three examples of really bad sentences I just came across in my work:
- Thank you everyone for actioning and updating. We have begun processing this request and have received some errors. Please see below and action as needed.
Why did this writer use actioning and action when she could, and should, have used acting and act instead? The word action is a noun. But she wanted a verb. She should have gone back to the verb (to act) from which the noun is derived!
- Growth your business with Amazon.
This is another example of the same bizarre problem. If the writer wanted to use a verb, how about using the verb (to grow) from which the noun (growth) is derived? A sensible sentence is: “Grow your business with Amazon.”
- Youthful distress worsens.
This was in an article I read for new research we are doing about depression and anxiety among young people. But the adjective youthful suggests that the distress itself is somehow youthful, not that youth are suffering from distress.
The first step to better writing is simply constructing better sentences, and here is an excellent, easy, fast resource that will give you a method to do that: It is a book called Revising Prose by Richard Lanham. Professor Lanham offers an 8-step “paramedic method” for fixing what you just wrote. I read this book and practiced it before going off to graduate school. I assigned it to my students when I began to teach.
I can guarantee that the paramedic method works and that it will help you fix bad sentences like the ones above. It will help you write better research reports, which is an often neglected piece of how great researchers turn mountains of data into stories that inspire.
—Joe Hopper, Ph.D.