Thursday, October 17, 2013
Don’t overburden your reader by including a long separation between a sentence's subject and verb. So cautions George Gopen, a professor emeritus of rhetoric at Duke University. In the summer 2013 issue of Litigation, Gopen explains that readers expect a sentence’s actor and its action to be close together. A short intervening word like however will not be intrusive, but readers will stumble at a long interruption, and they may even miss its import. How long is too long? One example that Gopen finds acceptable is three words long, and I think even four or five words can work in some contexts. But if you have more words than that between a subject and verb, consider recasting the sentence.
Gopen was the 2011 winner of the Legal Writing Institute’s Golden Pen Award.