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Be dynamic: avoid impersonal or dead beginnings

If you wish to keep your readers’ attention, start your sentences with a dynamic subject and verb.

Look at how “dead” the beginnings below are. They start with a dead word, either ‘there’ or ‘it’, and the main verb is ‘to be’, which is static. They usually make our sentences too long, and you may end up losing your readers or putting them to sleep.

Our spoken language is full of these expressions, as we need to give our listeners time to absorb our message. But when we write, we have the option to redraft.  

Dead beginning
It is important to remember that public health risks are not limited to specific geographic locations. (16 words)

Dynamic beginning
Public health risks transcend geographical locations. (6 words)

Dead beginning
There could be some decrease in the use of opium per se, but there is no change in levels of use of heroin or opioids. (25 words)

Dynamic beginning
Opium use may have decreased but levels of heroin or opioid use have remained unchanged. (15 words)

Test yourself.  Can you remove these dead beginnings and rephrase?

  1. Recently, it has also been observed that there is an increasing trend in the production of methamphetamine.
  2. It is recommended that the above departments seek advice from the relevant technical units.
  3.  There are certain other concerns as well raised in the context of the changing nature of drug use.
  4. It can be seen that the majority of sections did not perform at an optimal level. (referring to a graph)
  5. There has also been an evolution in the risk mitigation requirements …

Answer key (these are just suggestions: other redrafts may be correct too)

  1. Recently, methamphetamine production trends have been increasing.
  2. The above departments should seek advice from the relevant technical units.
  3. The changing nature of drug use raises other concerns.
  4. The graph shows that most sections underperformed.
  5. The risk mitigation requirements have evolved …

Carol Waites (PhD)

Presentation/editing by Christina O’Shaughnessy (editor)

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