How to write in plain language

For the discussion of language mechanics, grammar, vocabulary, trends, and other such linguistic topics, in english and other languages.

Moderators: gmalivuk, Moderators General, Prelates

KarmanMonkey
Posts: 3
Joined: Fri Jun 30, 2017 3:08 pm UTC

How to write in plain language

Postby KarmanMonkey » Fri Jun 30, 2017 3:21 pm UTC

Hi!

I absolutely adore the Thing Explainer. It's inspiring in fact.

I work in a specialized mental health unit, and a significant number of our clients are people who have been marginalized by the system. Their illness hit when they were trying to complete their education, they've spent much of their time in and out of hospital, and generally have not experienced the privilege many of us have experienced with respect to our education, upbringing and community. Add the issues related to immigration and speaking English as a second language, and you add all sorts of variations and levels to the intersectionality of the issue.

One of my many goals in my role here at the hospital is to try and reduce the use of clinical language in favour of plain and simple English. I feel the Thing Explainer is an achievement and a symbol of what can be done to transform the way we speak to people about complex issues.

Now my question: How did the book get written? What tools were used to transform the language? The simplewriter is useful in identifying words that need simplification, but how does one create the change?

When I run groups here at the hospital, I am often forced to rely on materials developed by others, which invariably have convoluted language and syntax. I find myself re-explaining much of the material, assuming the participants are brave enough to admit that they don't know the meaning of a word, phrase, or context.

I want to make it as easy as possible for people to understand what the staff are telling them, regardless of their social location. I would appreciate any advice and guidance you could offer.

Thank you,
Andrew Torrens

User avatar
heuristically_alone
Posts: 169
Joined: Sat Apr 09, 2016 7:43 pm UTC
Location: 37.2368078 and -115.80341870000001

Re: How to write in plain language

Postby heuristically_alone » Fri Jun 30, 2017 7:24 pm UTC

randallmunroe wrote:Want to try writing using only simple words? Here’s a writing checker you can use: xkcd.com/simplewriter.

To help me write the words in my Up Goer Five picture, I taught my computer to watch my writing and tell me when one of the words I used wasn’t in the top ten hundred.

When I decided to write Thing Explainer, I went back to the writing checker I had used and made it better. Now, I’m happy to be able to share it with everyone!

If you use a word that’s not in Thing Explainer’s set of the ten hundred, the word will turn red. (I usually count all forms of a word, like “kick” and “kicked,” together as one word, although there are a few special cases where I don’t.)

Have fun explaining things!

A note on the words: Some words are used more often in certain kinds of writing and talking than in others, which means different ways of counting words will give different answers for which ones we use the most. The set of ten hundred words in Thing Explainer comes from putting together many ways of counting how much people use a word to come up with a single set of ten hundred words that should sound familiar and simple to lots of people.
Bow gifted by adnapemit.

Beatrice wrote:The world is quiet here.

Tillian wrote:sig'd

User avatar
heuristically_alone
Posts: 169
Joined: Sat Apr 09, 2016 7:43 pm UTC
Location: 37.2368078 and -115.80341870000001

Re: How to write in plain language

Postby heuristically_alone » Fri Jun 30, 2017 7:34 pm UTC

KarmanMonkey wrote:Now my question: How did the book get written? What tools were used to transform the language? The simplewriter is useful in identifying words that need simplification, but how does one create the change?


Randall one night got addicted to and inspired by simple.wikipedia.org, so he wrote the comic Up Goer Five using only the most common thousand words or so of the english language, and had so much fun doing it that he decided to write a whole book in that format. He based it on the most common ten hundred words, twerked slightly to make it work. I dont understand the question "how does one create the change"
Bow gifted by adnapemit.

Beatrice wrote:The world is quiet here.

Tillian wrote:sig'd

User avatar
Eebster the Great
Posts: 2739
Joined: Mon Nov 10, 2008 12:58 am UTC

Re: How to write in plain language

Postby Eebster the Great » Fri Jun 30, 2017 10:50 pm UTC

heuristically_alone wrote:He based it on the most common ten hundred words, twerked slightly to make it work.

I think you mean "twerked."

User avatar
gmalivuk
GNU Terry Pratchett
Posts: 25783
Joined: Wed Feb 28, 2007 6:02 pm UTC
Location: Here and There
Contact:

Re: How to write in plain language

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Jun 30, 2017 11:51 pm UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:
heuristically_alone wrote:He based it on the most common ten hundred words, twerked slightly to make it work.

I think you mean "twerked."

Yes.
Unless stated otherwise, I do not care whether a statement, by itself, constitutes a persuasive political argument. I care whether it's true.
---
If this post has math that doesn't work for you, use TeX the World for Firefox or Chrome

(he/him/his)

User avatar
heuristically_alone
Posts: 169
Joined: Sat Apr 09, 2016 7:43 pm UTC
Location: 37.2368078 and -115.80341870000001

Re: How to write in plain language

Postby heuristically_alone » Sat Jul 01, 2017 12:00 am UTC

If you're not twerking, you're not doing something right in your life.
Bow gifted by adnapemit.

Beatrice wrote:The world is quiet here.

Tillian wrote:sig'd

User avatar
Eebster the Great
Posts: 2739
Joined: Mon Nov 10, 2008 12:58 am UTC

Re: How to write in plain language

Postby Eebster the Great » Sat Jul 01, 2017 2:50 am UTC

I see.

User avatar
Angua
Don't call her Delphine.
Posts: 5651
Joined: Tue Sep 16, 2008 12:42 pm UTC
Location: UK/[St. Kitts and] Nevis Occasionally, I migrate to the US for a bit

Re: How to write in plain language

Postby Angua » Sat Jul 01, 2017 7:25 am UTC

There is a book called Primary Surgery that is meant for doctors who are not surgeons to be able to do life saving surgery if they are stuck with no other option. It was written by having the surgeons explain what to do to a non surgeon so it wouldnt be too technical. You could do the same thing - find someone in your target demographic who would be willing to cowrite thr book.
'Look, sir, I know Angua. She's not the useless type. She doesn't stand there and scream helplessly. She makes other people do that.'
GNU Terry Pratchett

KarmanMonkey
Posts: 3
Joined: Fri Jun 30, 2017 3:08 pm UTC

Re: How to write in plain language

Postby KarmanMonkey » Tue Jul 04, 2017 2:36 pm UTC

heuristically_alone wrote:
KarmanMonkey wrote:Now my question: How did the book get written? What tools were used to transform the language? The simplewriter is useful in identifying words that need simplification, but how does one create the change?


Randall one night got addicted to and inspired by simple.wikipedia.org, so he wrote the comic Up Goer Five using only the most common thousand words or so of the english language, and had so much fun doing it that he decided to write a whole book in that format. He based it on the most common ten hundred words, twerked slightly to make it work. I dont understand the question "how does one create the change"


What I mean is, it is often not as simple as just replacing the complex word with a simple one. Often the structure of the sentence needs to change as a part of the process, and often complex words do not have a simple synonym in a standard thesaurus.

Knowing which words need to be changed is the first step, and the simplewriter makes this step an easy one (THANK YOU Randall!). The next step, which I'm finding daunting, is identifying alternative words. I'm hoping people can provide some general advice on how to rephrase complex language, hopefully without expanding the text to absurd lengths. Is this a skill that simply comes with practice, or are there techniques I can use to help me in the process?

I like the solution Angua presented:

Angua wrote:There is a book called Primary Surgery that is meant for doctors who are not surgeons to be able to do life saving surgery if they are stuck with no other option. It was written by having the surgeons explain what to do to a non surgeon so it wouldn't be too technical. You could do the same thing - find someone in your target demographic who would be willing to cowrite the book.


Unfortunately, there are times when I suggest involving our patients in developing aspects of our program, and I'm met with confused stares... Not because they are resistant to the idea, but because hospitals are unaccustomed to consulting psychiatric patients when developing process, policy and procedure. I am working to break down this barrier, but in the meantime it would be helpful to have some ideas on how to build my simplewriting skills!

Thanks for everyone's replies (even the off topic twerking ones!) (hmm... chrome has an issue with the spelling of explainer, but not twerking. What kind of a world are we living in?)

User avatar
gmalivuk
GNU Terry Pratchett
Posts: 25783
Joined: Wed Feb 28, 2007 6:02 pm UTC
Location: Here and There
Contact:

Re: How to write in plain language

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Jul 05, 2017 5:08 pm UTC

I don't think you're going to find a textbook of how to write simple English, but you could read (and look at guidelines for) things like the Simple English Wikipedia to get a feel for what needs to be done.

A big thing in addition to using simpler words might be using simpler grammatical structure. Keep most of your sentences to one or two clauses without too many embedded or modifying phrases.
Unless stated otherwise, I do not care whether a statement, by itself, constitutes a persuasive political argument. I care whether it's true.
---
If this post has math that doesn't work for you, use TeX the World for Firefox or Chrome

(he/him/his)

User avatar
Eebster the Great
Posts: 2739
Joined: Mon Nov 10, 2008 12:58 am UTC

Re: How to write in plain language

Postby Eebster the Great » Wed Jul 05, 2017 11:53 pm UTC

You could also read Ernest Hemingway. Most of his sentences were simple sentences. These sentences are all simple, too.

User avatar
gmalivuk
GNU Terry Pratchett
Posts: 25783
Joined: Wed Feb 28, 2007 6:02 pm UTC
Location: Here and There
Contact:

Re: How to write in plain language

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Jul 06, 2017 3:19 pm UTC

Hemingway's sentences were simple and short in comparison to typical writing of the time, but are actually average to above-average compared to a lot of more recent writing.
Unless stated otherwise, I do not care whether a statement, by itself, constitutes a persuasive political argument. I care whether it's true.
---
If this post has math that doesn't work for you, use TeX the World for Firefox or Chrome

(he/him/his)

User avatar
Eebster the Great
Posts: 2739
Joined: Mon Nov 10, 2008 12:58 am UTC

Re: How to write in plain language

Postby Eebster the Great » Thu Jul 06, 2017 5:25 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Hemingway's sentences were simple and short in comparison to typical writing of the time, but are actually average to above-average compared to a lot of more recent writing.

Wikipedia cites a claim that 70% of his sentences were simple, which is pretty extreme. I have a hard time believing that is longer than typical writing of today.

User avatar
gmalivuk
GNU Terry Pratchett
Posts: 25783
Joined: Wed Feb 28, 2007 6:02 pm UTC
Location: Here and There
Contact:

Re: How to write in plain language

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Jul 06, 2017 5:42 pm UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:Hemingway's sentences were simple and short in comparison to typical writing of the time, but are actually average to above-average compared to a lot of more recent writing.

Wikipedia cites a claim that 70% of his sentences were simple, which is pretty extreme. I have a hard time believing that is longer than typical writing of today.
Can you find any statistics (or sites that will compute statistics) for typical writing of today?

(Or, in fact, for a wider body of Hemingway than one short story?)
Unless stated otherwise, I do not care whether a statement, by itself, constitutes a persuasive political argument. I care whether it's true.
---
If this post has math that doesn't work for you, use TeX the World for Firefox or Chrome

(he/him/his)

User avatar
gmalivuk
GNU Terry Pratchett
Posts: 25783
Joined: Wed Feb 28, 2007 6:02 pm UTC
Location: Here and There
Contact:

Re: How to write in plain language

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Jul 06, 2017 8:53 pm UTC

The Hemingway Editor does highlight sentences it considers to be too long to be easily read, which if you're really going for shorter, simpler sentences might be a useful tool.

However, as I've said Hemingway didn't actually write as tersely or simply (compared to modern standards) as the stereotype would have us believe. For example, The Old Man and the Sea, according to that app, contains 253 sentences that are "hard" or "very hard" to read, and uses 40% more adverbs than it should.
Unless stated otherwise, I do not care whether a statement, by itself, constitutes a persuasive political argument. I care whether it's true.
---
If this post has math that doesn't work for you, use TeX the World for Firefox or Chrome

(he/him/his)

User avatar
Eebster the Great
Posts: 2739
Joined: Mon Nov 10, 2008 12:58 am UTC

Re: How to write in plain language

Postby Eebster the Great » Thu Jul 06, 2017 9:42 pm UTC

Your claim is very surprising, and I can't find anything online to back it up. Obviously Hemingway wrote a lot of stories, so maybe it depends on which ones you read, but his terse style is famous and seemed pretty apparent when I read him in school. Are you really going to defend that 70% is a typical frequency for simple sentences? The OP seems pretty typical to me, and that's more like 25% or so.

User avatar
gmalivuk
GNU Terry Pratchett
Posts: 25783
Joined: Wed Feb 28, 2007 6:02 pm UTC
Location: Here and There
Contact:

Re: How to write in plain language

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Jul 07, 2017 1:36 am UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:
Are you really going to defend that 70% is a typical frequency for simple sentences?
I don't believe that 70% is a typical frequency in Hemingway's writing, even if it was the fraction in one short story.

Old Man and the Sea has an average sentence length of about 20 words, and among the first couple dozen sentences or so I counted, only around half were simple.

(And among the technically simple sentences in "Big Two-Hearted River" are the likes of, "Then he saw them at the bottom of the pool, big trout looking to hold themselves on the gravel bottom in a varying mist of gravel and sand, raised in spurts by the current.")
Unless stated otherwise, I do not care whether a statement, by itself, constitutes a persuasive political argument. I care whether it's true.
---
If this post has math that doesn't work for you, use TeX the World for Firefox or Chrome

(he/him/his)

User avatar
Eebster the Great
Posts: 2739
Joined: Mon Nov 10, 2008 12:58 am UTC

Re: How to write in plain language

Postby Eebster the Great » Fri Jul 07, 2017 4:26 am UTC

Well I don't have access to the source book, so I can't verify anything. But do you have any sources that back up your claim that his style was not unusually terse? Because it is famously so, and you're the first person who has told me otherwise.

User avatar
gmalivuk
GNU Terry Pratchett
Posts: 25783
Joined: Wed Feb 28, 2007 6:02 pm UTC
Location: Here and There
Contact:

Re: How to write in plain language

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Jul 07, 2017 5:04 am UTC

Does the direct observation that OMatS averages 20 words per sentence not count as any kind of backup? Or the fact that 253 sentences are long enough for the eponymous app to consider (very) hard to read?

Here's a Language Log post about it.

http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=15282
Unless stated otherwise, I do not care whether a statement, by itself, constitutes a persuasive political argument. I care whether it's true.
---
If this post has math that doesn't work for you, use TeX the World for Firefox or Chrome

(he/him/his)

User avatar
Eebster the Great
Posts: 2739
Joined: Mon Nov 10, 2008 12:58 am UTC

Re: How to write in plain language

Postby Eebster the Great » Fri Jul 07, 2017 6:48 am UTC

Are you getting that 20 words/sentence average from your personal digital copy? I admit that is an awful lot. On the other hand, by Shane Snow's calculations, Hemingway's books have an overall Flesch-Kincaid reading level of 4, and reading ease of a startling 95. So clearly it matters which metric you use. I have no idea what metric the Hemingway Editor uses.

User avatar
jaap
Posts: 2071
Joined: Fri Jul 06, 2007 7:06 am UTC
Contact:

Re: How to write in plain language

Postby jaap » Fri Jul 07, 2017 7:52 am UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:Are you getting that 20 words/sentence average from your personal digital copy? I admit that is an awful lot. On the other hand, by Shane Snow's calculations, Hemingway's books have an overall Flesch-Kincaid reading level of 4, and reading ease of a startling 95. So clearly it matters which metric you use. I have no idea what metric the Hemingway Editor uses.

Language Log have something to say about Flesch-Kincaid, too.

User avatar
Eebster the Great
Posts: 2739
Joined: Mon Nov 10, 2008 12:58 am UTC

Re: How to write in plain language

Postby Eebster the Great » Fri Jul 07, 2017 11:44 am UTC

jaap wrote:
Eebster the Great wrote:Are you getting that 20 words/sentence average from your personal digital copy? I admit that is an awful lot. On the other hand, by Shane Snow's calculations, Hemingway's books have an overall Flesch-Kincaid reading level of 4, and reading ease of a startling 95. So clearly it matters which metric you use. I have no idea what metric the Hemingway Editor uses.

Language Log have something to say about Flesch-Kincaid, too.

Its criticism is that it focuses only on word and sentence length. gmalivuk's claim regarded only sentence length. So it is possible that Hemingway did use long sentences but that his words were almost all monosyllabic. I think that's unlikely, though.

User avatar
gmalivuk
GNU Terry Pratchett
Posts: 25783
Joined: Wed Feb 28, 2007 6:02 pm UTC
Location: Here and There
Contact:

Re: How to write in plain language

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Jul 07, 2017 11:54 am UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:Are you getting that 20 words/sentence average from your personal digital copy? I admit that is an awful lot. On the other hand, by Shane Snow's calculations, Hemingway's books have an overall Flesch-Kincaid reading level of 4, and reading ease of a startling 95. So clearly it matters which metric you use. I have no idea what metric the Hemingway Editor uses.
Given that automatic "reading level" calculations are based mostly on word length and sentence length (rather than something more relevant like word rarity and sentence structure), and given that at least in his novels Hemingway doesn't have particularly short sentences on average, I'd guess that reading level simply reflects his use of shorter words.

Edit: Why do you think that's unlikely? What are you basing your assumption on? Old Man and the Sea is public domain (in Canada at least) and wordcounter.net is completely free. Average sentence length is a matter of dividing the number of words by the number of sentences, so you can check yourself if you don't believe me.
Unless stated otherwise, I do not care whether a statement, by itself, constitutes a persuasive political argument. I care whether it's true.
---
If this post has math that doesn't work for you, use TeX the World for Firefox or Chrome

(he/him/his)

User avatar
Grop
Posts: 1845
Joined: Mon Oct 06, 2008 10:36 am UTC
Location: France

Re: How to write in plain language

Postby Grop » Fri Jul 07, 2017 12:09 pm UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:Its criticism is that it focuses only on word and sentence length. gmalivuk's claim regarded only sentence length. So it is possible that Hemingway did use long sentences but that his words were almost all monosyllabic. I think that's unlikely, though.


Even so, does using shorter words (as in fewer syllabics per word) really make a sentence "simpler"? I don't think that would be obvious.

speising
Posts: 2066
Joined: Mon Sep 03, 2012 4:54 pm UTC
Location: wien

Re: How to write in plain language

Postby speising » Fri Jul 07, 2017 12:16 pm UTC

Hemingway wrote:But after forty days without a fish the boy’s parents had told him that the old man was now definitely and finally salao,
which is the worst form of unlucky, and the boy had gone at their orders in another boat which caught three good fish the first week. It made the boy sad to see the old man come in each day with his skiff empty and he always went down to help him carry either the coiled lines or the gaff and
harpoon and the sail that was furled around the mast.


Hm. I definitely had to do some backtracking there. But mostly simple words, except the "salao" throws you a bit off until you realize it plays on Cuba.

User avatar
gmalivuk
GNU Terry Pratchett
Posts: 25783
Joined: Wed Feb 28, 2007 6:02 pm UTC
Location: Here and There
Contact:

Re: How to write in plain language

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Jul 07, 2017 12:31 pm UTC

And "salao" is still a short word, which is all that matters for the algorithm.
Unless stated otherwise, I do not care whether a statement, by itself, constitutes a persuasive political argument. I care whether it's true.
---
If this post has math that doesn't work for you, use TeX the World for Firefox or Chrome

(he/him/his)

User avatar
Eebster the Great
Posts: 2739
Joined: Mon Nov 10, 2008 12:58 am UTC

Re: How to write in plain language

Postby Eebster the Great » Fri Jul 07, 2017 7:19 pm UTC

speising wrote:
Hemingway wrote:But after forty days without a fish the boy’s parents had told him that the old man was now definitely and finally salao, which is the worst form of unlucky, and the boy had gone at their orders in another boat which caught three good fish the first week. It made the boy sad to see the old man come in each day with his skiff empty and he always went down to help him carry either the coiled lines or the gaff and harpoon and the sail that was furled around the mast.


Hm. I definitely had to do some backtracking there. But mostly simple words, except the "salao" throws you a bit off until you realize it plays on Cuba.

These two sentences have a Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level of 17.2 and a reading ease of 55.6. The point is to look at the typical examples, not the most extreme ones.

User avatar
gmalivuk
GNU Terry Pratchett
Posts: 25783
Joined: Wed Feb 28, 2007 6:02 pm UTC
Location: Here and There
Contact:

Re: How to write in plain language

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Jul 07, 2017 9:08 pm UTC

The work contains 251 other sentences akin to those.
Unless stated otherwise, I do not care whether a statement, by itself, constitutes a persuasive political argument. I care whether it's true.
---
If this post has math that doesn't work for you, use TeX the World for Firefox or Chrome

(he/him/his)

User avatar
Eebster the Great
Posts: 2739
Joined: Mon Nov 10, 2008 12:58 am UTC

Re: How to write in plain language

Postby Eebster the Great » Fri Jul 07, 2017 9:21 pm UTC

Again, the novel has a reading level of 4, implying an average word length of less than one syllable, which is impossible. I'm not sure what the cause of the discrepancy is. I analyzed the first five pages on my own and got an average sentence length of 10.3 words and a grade level of 2.7. The next five pages had an average sentence length of 17.3 words and a grade level of 5.5. That's obviously a huge difference, which does suggest that it depends on what sample you are using.

Incidentally, the book is not in fact in the public domain, and I cannot find it in plain text.

User avatar
gmalivuk
GNU Terry Pratchett
Posts: 25783
Joined: Wed Feb 28, 2007 6:02 pm UTC
Location: Here and There
Contact:

Re: How to write in plain language

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Jul 07, 2017 9:47 pm UTC

It seems lines of dialogue mess up the counts for one or both of wordcounter.net and hemingwayapp.com.

Stripping out the conversations at the beginning of OMatS and counting everything up to when the old man starts talking to himself, the former site finds 2639 words in 114 sentences and the latter 2644 words in 115 sentences. The discrepancy is still weird but at least it's small.

Incidentally the Hemingway Editor says this is a grade 9 reading level, while WordCounter says 7th-8th grade, which is also what it says for the whole work and for the first paragraph even with its long sentences.
Unless stated otherwise, I do not care whether a statement, by itself, constitutes a persuasive political argument. I care whether it's true.
---
If this post has math that doesn't work for you, use TeX the World for Firefox or Chrome

(he/him/his)

User avatar
Eebster the Great
Posts: 2739
Joined: Mon Nov 10, 2008 12:58 am UTC

Re: How to write in plain language

Postby Eebster the Great » Fri Jul 07, 2017 10:19 pm UTC

Dialog tends to produce much shorter sentences though, so excluding it will bias the count somewhat. I'm not sure why these tools are struggling with it, but now I kind of want to know how to get a conclusive answer to this.

KarmanMonkey
Posts: 3
Joined: Fri Jun 30, 2017 3:08 pm UTC

Re: How to write in plain language

Postby KarmanMonkey » Tue Aug 15, 2017 1:02 pm UTC

So, Hemmingway aside (and thank you for the interesting discussion), thanks for the links to the simple wiki and the "Hemmingway writer"

My first attempt is to start hammering through a set of group materials for "Taking Charge for Discharge" I'd love to get your feedback on the edits I've made to an intro to one of our groups. If you can let me know if I'm on the right track, and point out further changes that are needed, that'll help me guide the rest of my edits. Thank you!

Taking Charge for Discharge
What is it all about?

People often don’t know how discharge really works. People say that they do not know when they will be discharged. They might not know what they need to do to get discharged. Sometimes people do not even know what to ask, who to ask or how to ask it. Thinking about discharge can be stressful, and people may not know what life will look like after they leave the hospital.

Taking Charge for Discharge is a group created to help you get the answers you need.

Group Goals:
• To help you figure out the questions you most want answered about your stay here
• To learn to ask those questions in the best way, so you get the answers you need
• To help you understand the system so it can be something that’s helpful, and not something that gets in the way
• To learn and build on skills that will keep you out of hospital
• To learn from each other
• To talk about what’s most important to you

User avatar
Quizatzhaderac
Posts: 1510
Joined: Sun Oct 19, 2008 5:28 pm UTC
Location: Space Florida

Re: How to write in plain language

Postby Quizatzhaderac » Tue Aug 29, 2017 6:29 pm UTC

KarmanMonkey wrote: Is this a skill that simply comes with practice, or are there techniques I can use to help me in the process?
Mostly practice, but one thing you can go is to diagram your complex sentences. This helps you track how many clauses, compound subjects, complex predicates, and the relationships between them.

Spoilered is an example I've just happened to have done recently in another thread:
Spoiler:
From Mark Twain's "A Tramp abroad". He wrote a short story mocking the German language's rules of grammatical gender.

I've taken one sentence, added new lines for all of the semicolon breaks, and color coded the nouns that have pronouns to match with their pronouns (green is something different on each line):
Tale of the Fishwife and Its Sad Fate. wrote:O, horror, the Lightning has struck the Fishbasket;
he sets him on Fire; see the Flame, how she licks the doomed Utensil with her red and angry Tongue;
now she attacks the helpless Fishwife's Foot,—she burns him up, all but the big Toe and even she is partly consumed;
and still she spreads, still she waves her fiery Tongues;
she attacks the Fishwife's Leg and destroys it;
she attacks its Hand and destroys her;
she attacks its poor worn Garment and destroys her also;
she attacks its Body and consumes him;
she wreathes herself about its Heart and it is consumed;
next about its Breast, and in a Moment she is a Cinder;
now she reaches its Neck,—he goes;
now its Chin,—it goes;
now its Nose,—she goes.


Going even further, and breaking down the most complex clause in there:

how she licks the doomed Utensil with her red and angry Tongue
how (she licks the doomed Utensil with her red and angry Tongue)
how (she (licks the doomed Utensil with her red and angry Tongue))
how (she ((licks the doomed Utensil) with her red and angry Tongue))
how (she ((licks (the doomed Utensil)) with her red and angry Tongue))
how (she ((licks (the (doomed Utensil))) with her red and angry Tongue))
how (she ((licks (the (doomed Utensil))) (with her red and angry Tongue)))
how (she ((licks (the (doomed Utensil))) (with (her red and angry Tongue))))
how (she ((licks (the (doomed Utensil))) (with (her (red and angry Tongue)))))
how (she ((licks (the (doomed Utensil))) (with (her ((red and angry) Tongue)))))
... hospitals are unaccustomed to consulting psychiatric patients when developing process, policy and procedure.
There might also be people other than doctor's and patients who you could get to proof read for you.
Taking Charge for Discharge
What is it all about?

People often don’t know how discharge really works. People say that they do not know when they will be discharged. They might not know what they need to do to get discharged. Sometimes people do not even know what to ask, who to ask or how to ask it. Thinking about discharge can be stressful, and people may not know what life will look like after they leave the hospital.

Taking Charge for Discharge is a group created to help you get the answers you need.

Group Goals:
• To help you figure out the questions you most want answered about your stay here
• To learn to ask those questions in the best way, so you get the answers you need
• To help you understand the system so it can be something that’s helpful, and not something that gets in the way
• To learn and build on skills that will keep you out of hospital
• To learn from each other
• To talk about what’s most important to you
I suggest you move "Taking Charge for Discharge is a group created to help you get the answers you need." to immediately below the header.

"People say that they do not know when they will be discharged" - would "People do not know when they will be discharged" work?

"...the system so it can be something that’s helpful" or "...the system; so it can help, and not get in the way"
The thing about recursion problems is that they tend to contain other recursion problems.


Return to “Language/Linguistics”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 6 guests