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  • Writer's pictureErin Bailey Lake

Sentence Structure Still Matters. Here's Why.

"I was struck by the bridge."

What does this title sentence mean….?

1. I was in awe of the majesty of the bridge.

2. I was hit by a car near the bridge.

3. As I was navigating my boat under a low bridge, one of

the girders struck my forehead.

Answer: None of the above. What actually happened was: I was just standing there beside the bridge, minding my own business, and some guy walked up and punched me in the face.

OK, in this example, we’re messing with you. But our purpose is to illustrate the need to write with clarity and precision – especially in a business environment. In grammatical terms, the sentence is written in passive voice and uses a linking verb. The result is ambiguity.

Now, let’s bring this closer to home. What if your company CEO sent you this message:

“If the salesperson doesn’t respect your sales manager, he should be fired.”

Which one is he directing you to fire?

Of course, in context, you would probably know. But the sentence points up the importance of writing with precision. Once again, passive voice leads to ambiguity.

In our Business Writing Workshop, we teach:

SVO: the ideal sentence structure.

SVO is a mnemonic that helps us remember to use the sequence: subject/verb/object. Subject is the actor. Verb is the action. Object is the receiver.

Using SVO, the president would write:

“Your sales manager should fire any salesperson who shows a lack of respect.” Actor: sales manager. Action: fire. Receiver: salesperson.

SVO helps you avoid ambiguity and improve clarity. Not every sentence will fit this structure. But the more you use it, the more vigorous your writing will become.

With today’s reliance on virtual communication, strong writing skill is no longer a nice-to-have; it’s a core competence, If you would like to improve your business writing, contact us for a group workshop or one-to-one session:

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