rewrite-sentence

How to Rewrite a Sentence

Do you want to know how to rewrite a sentence so that your words really resonate with your readership?

 

Crafting excellent copy is a multi-stage process that looks something like this:

 

  • Research
  • Structure
  • First Draft
  • Edit Structure
  • Second Draft
  • Share with a second pair of eyes
  • Polish …

 

It’s that final step – polish – that we’re focused on in this blog: How to rewrite a sentence and indeed entire paragraphs, subheadings and first drafts so that your words truly connect with your audience.

Whether you’re a writer yourself, or just want to find out a bit more about how things work in an editorial team, this blog will give you a breakdown of how you can play with sentence structure and word choice to turn an average sentence into an outstanding one.

How to Rewrite a Sentence Example 1

Okay, wow.

This was the opening sentence to a blog we edited.

If you read this sentence in an economics magazine, you might conclude that you were not clever enough or maths-y enough to understand the point.

In fact, the fault sits with the author; the sentence is badly written. Examples of this kind of convoluted writing appear everywhere. But it is particularly common in complex sectors like academia, finance and technology.

 

The problem here is that already complex topics like finance become incomprehensible if an author doesn’t take care with their words. Fortunately, with just a little syntactical wizardry it’s possible to turn things around.

 

How to rewrite a sentence

Length

 

Okay, the obvious problem with our sample sentence is that it goes on forever.

 

English sentences follow a very basic structure:

Subject – Verb – Object.

John – hit – James.

 

Yes you can play around with it, but this sentence structure is fundamental to clear communication in English. It follows then that the closer you boil your sentences down to these three elements, the easier your sentence will be to understand – and the better it is at getting the essential information across.

 

So here comes the inevitable question: can you find these three elements in our sample sentence?

 

After a bit of light detective work, I found them to be ‘prices’, ‘have been’ and ‘strain’.

 

That’s right – it takes 18 words before we even get to the first important piece of the puzzle: prices. If I was to come across these words at the point of polishing a piece of work (besides questioning what on earth my former self was thinking) I would hit that delete button pronto.

 

Sure those extra words provide some context – but they are not important enough to be at the start of the sentence. If we decide the context is important enough to warrant their presence, we can add an additional sentence.

Let’s try this again:

How to Rewrite a Sentence Example 2

Not perfect, but now we’re on firmer territory. We know what the focus of the sentence is straight away – not halfway through it.

 

How to rewrite a sentence

Auxiliary words

 

Now we’ve identified what really matters, it becomes clear that there’s a whole bunch of words that really don’t need to exist at all in our sample sentence. We can also see other convoluted constructions that can simply be deleted. So let’s get the axe out:

How to Rewrite a Sentence Example 3

Down from 51 words to 41. We’re getting somewhere.

 

Even professional copywriters can ramble and over explain when they’re writing from scratch. That’s one of the reasons we edit; to cut this out.

 

How to rewrite a sentence

Split it up

Despite all the fine axe-work we’ve accomplished so far, we’re still at an unwieldy four syllables. You can get away with it – but it’s not ideal. A good rule is to cap a single sentence at three syllables.

 

We can solve this problem by splitting up the sentence after the main clause. Let’s rearrange a few other things while we’re at it.

 

Here’s version four:

How to Rewrite a Sentence Example 4

Key edits to note:

 

 

This resulting paragraph is starting to look a lot more readable than the original sentence.

 

How to rewrite a sentence

Add the bells and whistles

We’ve gotten to the point where the sentence is comprehensible. But if we’re going to publish this on our own or one of our clients’ websites, we want to make it sing. Give it a little more editorial gloss, if you will.

 

I’m going to start by putting a paragraph break between the two sentences. A short paragraph is direct and impactful and works particularly well online. As this copy comes at the start of an article, we want to introduce the main concepts in a clear and succinct manner.

 

The second thing I’m going to do is a cheat – I’m using my earlier trick all over again. I’m going to split the resulting second paragraph into two further sentences, starting with a statement. The new ‘third sentence’ will then ‘contradict’ or ‘complicate’ the fact that we established in sentence two.

 

Here we are at the final version, version five:

How to Rewrite a Sentence Example 5

 

Now, that’s what I like to call a singing sentence. We’ve digested the entire 70 word, 6-clause behemoth into 3 succinct phrases:

 

  1. Context
  2. Fact
  3. Complication

 

The important thing here is that the edited version gets across important information far more effectively than the original – which is our ultimate goal as copywriters after all.

 

Want to find out more? Get in touch with the team at InsideCopy and find out how we can make your company’s written content sing.

 

Footnote …

How not to rewrite a sentence

For the team at InsideCopy, the focus is always on crafting copy first and foremost for the end reader. So in this blog I’ve focused on how to rewrite a sentence to make it more enjoyable to read and easier to understand.

 

What we don’t do – and indeed what we caution against – is rewriting articles and sentences just to create copies so you have more content. It’s a short-sighted, cheap SEO strategy and (thankfully) it’s just not effective anymore.

 

Have you noticed the proliferation of automated tools that claim to be able to spit out a completely unique sentence? Some even claim to be able to create entirely new articles.

 

Avoid these tools like the plague. Running content through them invariably creates garbage.

 

Machine learning is improving and there are algorithms that are getting pretty close to rewriting sentences and articles automatically with a good deal of linguistic accuracy. But the majority of the free or cheap tools online won’t even give you content that makes sense, never mind anything that offers any value to the reader.

 

They are driven by the perceived need for ridiculous volumes of SEO content. In reality, successful SEO strategies are now firmly rooted in quality over quantity, rendering automated rewrites of sentences and articles useless and even damaging to your company’s online presence.

 

Now, it’s all about the edit and the polish. Rewrite a sentence in an article for your website’s blog four, five even six times if necessary. But do it to make that final single blog the most interesting and enjoyable read you can.

 

From our experience, that’s how you win search rankings – and clients.

 

This article was originally written in July 2018 by Matt Rooke. It was updated in April 2019. 

Matt Rooke About the author
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