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Sentence Focus and Variety
Explanation: Academic writing does not mean flowery, long, unclear sentences. Academic writing calls for critical thoughts put simply and ideas written so your intended audience can easily understand.
Rule of thumb: Ask yourself who (or what) is doing what?
Here are Some Examples:
Weak: The exam was taken by the students. (Did the exam do something?)
Subject Verb
Better: The students took the exam.
Subject Verb
Weak: The material was reviewed by the class to prepare for the exam.
Subject Verb
Better: The class reviewed the material to prepare for the exam.
Subject Verb
Passive: The ball was thrown. (Missing subject. Who threw the ball?)
Active: Justin Verlander threw the ball.
Appropriately Passive and logical: My car was stolen. (“By whom?” isn’t a logical or helpful question here.)
Appropriately Passive in science*: Lateral fluid percussion (LFP) will be used to produce brain injury in rats.
(*Often, scientific writing leaves out the subject/researchers/person doing the action in order to promote the research over the researcher, and to seem less biased.)
Inappropriately Passive and unclear: Mistakes were made. (by whom? what mistakes?) (Listen as politicians use this to get out of admitting to a mistake.)
The Assignment/Your Task: Revise these wordy sentences for more clarity and simplicity. Submit the four revised sentences for up to 20 points. Remember to ask yourself: who is doing what?
Developing research tests at Stanford, researchers are measuring one’s ability to multitask.
Helping track illegal online activity for law enforcement, the Department of Defense developed a new search engine.
Attempts were made to alert the student body to the changes in registration procedures by the registrar.
There are many studies indicating that cramming for tests does not work.


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