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Writing Center

Problems with Unclear Sentences

Sometimes when sentences are unclear it’s because the ideas in our heads aren’t quite clear either. Sometimes it takes more thinking and pre-writing to figure out what we want to say. Once we’ve figured that out, we can express our clearer ideas in clearer sentences.

If the problem is simply expressing those ideas, you might try one of these ways to change your composing process:

  • Explain your idea out loud into a tape recorder or to a friend who can take some notes for you—sometimes when we say it, we can be a lot clearer than when we are struggling to get it on paper.
  • Limit yourself at first to writing baby-simple sentences. Make a list of the ideas moving from one to the next. When you have a clear simple list, use sentence-combining techniques to build clear relationships among the ideas.
  • When revising, remember to take away as well as add. Sometimes unclear sentences happen when you try to clarify an idea and keep on adding. It’s easy to forget to eliminate things when you revise.

This page for technical writers might help you find and correct common clarity problems.