How to make people understand: knit your sentences

Here’s a quick technique that’ll help make sure your writing is clear and flows well. It’s especially useful when you want to make a specialist or technical topic more understandable.

Knitted sentences

Read these two sentences about haem, a nutrient that food scientists are using to make vegan food taste more like meat. Which do you prefer?

Knit your sentences

Example 1

Oxygen and iron are two things haem helps ferry round the body. The essential nutrient is found in many proteins, and just about every living thing on Earth. It’s found in haemoglobin, and is responsible for colouring blood red.

Example 2

Haem is an essential nutrient in many proteins. It’s also in just about every living thing on Earth. In our bodies, haem can be found tucked inside of a molecule in our blood called haemoglobin. Haem helps ferry oxygen throughout the body, carries iron, and colours our blood red.

In paragraph 1 there are hardly any links between sentences. We can guess at the connections, but they are not explicit. It’s not clear which “essential nutrient” the writer is referring to in the second sentence.

Note that the first sentence of a coherent paragraph should always introduce the paragraph topic. The subject of the first sentence (oxygen and iron) is not the topic (it’s haem), which causes confusion.

In paragraph 2 each sentence contains a phrase that links it with the preceding one. In this way we move from the known to the unknown and ‘unfold’ our ideas. Let’s take a closer look by separating each sentence to see the ‘stitches’:

Haem is an essential nutrient in many proteins.
It’s also in just about every living thing on Earth.
In our bodies, haem can be found tucked inside of a molecule in our blood called haemoglobin.
Haem helps ferry oxygen throughout the body, carries iron, and colours our blood red.

So to unfold ideas and make each sentence flow naturally, do two things:

  1. Link your ideas from one sentence to another, and
  2. Move from the known to the unknown.

Next time you’re writing, look through your paragraphs and check each sentence has a connecting stitch with the previous one. That’ll ensure your ideas follow on and are easy to understand.


Want more tips? Plenty more elsewhere on the blog, and my writing courses offer lots of chances to practise.

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