Skills for Business and Management

by Martin Sedgley

Style

Academic writing style: Explanation of fundamental principles of clarity, conciseness and precision.

Writing clear, concise sentences

a) How many different ideas can you count in this example sentence of student writing? Write your estimate below and check against the answer at the end of the section.

This company is engaged in Business to Business (B2B) e-commerce services, where all electronic transactions of goods or services are conducted between companies, by offering resolution to web-page owners to optimize user behaviour in their landing page, and they want to expand their services and enter the new market, which could be attractive due to the size and potential.

b) What is the ideal length of a sentence? Tick the option below that seems most likely to you, then check the answer at the end of the section:

  • A. Less than 15 words
  • B. 15–25 words
  • C. 25–35 words
  • D. More than 35 words

So, how could we make this student’s sentence more readable? Here is one suggested rephrasing with corrections and additional comments shown in different colour text. You can see that the main change involves splitting the one long sentence into three separate ones – to achieve clarity and conciseness:

This company is engaged in Business to Business (B2B) e-commerce services, where all electronic transactions of goods or services are conducted between companies. They offer solutions to web-page owners to optimize user behaviour in their landing page. The company want to expand this service into the new market (which market?... be specific), which could be attractive due to the size and potential (citation ? … reference which sources suggest this potential, ideally with more specific details).

Here are two examples of sentences that meet the criteria of clarity and conciseness:

The penetration of debit and credit cards led to 40 per cent more British online payments or contactless settlements in 2016 (UK Cards Association 2017).

This has 21 words (excluding the citation) and presents two ideas connected in a cause and effect relationship.

Redman and Wilkinson (2013) assert that performance appraisals are effective if employees and their manager are equally satisfied with the outcomes, and they are willing to work towards a common organisational goal.

This has 28 words and three ideas. This is probably the maximum to consider as quickly comprehensible for a single sentence. As the outcome (first idea) is dependent on both conditions (the latter two ideas), this is still fairly easy to follow.

Paragraph structure
Each paragraph in your assignment should convey a single idea of its own (Unity), which also then connects clearly to the next (Coherence). Unity is considered below:

The TEEE framework for paragraph unity
Topic sentence: This presents the key idea of the whole paragraph.
Explanation: How that idea relates to your assignment question.
Evidence: Citations to others’ research that supports or challenges the idea.
Examples: Real applications of the idea in the business world.

Here is an illustration of the TEEE framework in a sample paragraph from a student’s essay addressing the question:

Political intervention in foreign trade is justifiable. Discuss.

Government trade policies on protecting jobs and industries are ineffective and costly. Lawrence and Litan (1987) state that "Even if protection temporarily preserves jobs, the effects wane with time while workers elsewhere in the economy may actually be harmed" Wild and Wild (2014) agree that Government trade policies which are exclusively driven by political motives are rarely effective in the long term. For example, the European Union (EU) launched the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to implement export subsidies to European farmers along with tariffs to counteract the differences of agricultural product prices between Europe and the world (European Commission 2017). However, the supported prices were higher than both the global price and the EU price without imports, and this contributed to the surplus in production since the 1970s. Since then, the EU has had to adjust its policy to dispose of such a large amount of surplus in production (Krugman et al. 2015).

Topic sentence.

Explanation and support of the topic proposition via a direct quote and a further citation (Evidence).

Real life Illustration of the theoretical idea proposed in the topic sentence (Example).


Activity Answers

Writing clear, concise sentences

a) This sentence contains up to seven separate ideas, as noted by the numbers below. This is clearly far too many to digest together without the punctuating signals of full stops to separate this into manageable chunks for the reader.


This company is engaged in Business to Business (B2B) e-commerce services [1], where all electronic transactions of goods or services are conducted ​​between companies[2], by offering resolution to web-page owners [3]to optimize user behaviour in their landing page[4], and they want to expand their services [5] and enter the new market [6], which could be attractive due to the size and potential[7].


b) The single sentence above has 60 words. This is clearly far too long to follow. An ideal sentence length for academic assignments is around 15–25 words per sentence (Answer B), to help your tutor get your points quickly and easily