Business Writing Tip #168—Types of Sentences

My last post looked at subjects and predicates. This tip introduces you to the four different types of sentences.

The Four Types of Sentence

  1. Declarative—these sentences make a statement and end with a full stop (US English: period).

I will submit the report on Friday.

  1. Interrogative—these sentences ask questions and end with a question mark.



Will the report be finished by Friday?

  1. Imperative—these sentences are the ones we use to make a request or give a command and they usually end with a full stop. These are the sentences we use for to-do lists, agendas and to outline instructions.

– Book the venue.

– Make the catering arrangements for morning and afternoon tea, and lunch.

– Brief the audio-visual contractors about our requirements.

– Draft the agenda.

  1. Exclamatory—these sentences are the ones we use to express strong feelings and they end with an exclamation mark (US English: exclamation point). They are rare in business English but may be used in sales/advertising copy or in emails when we have a strong rapport with the recipient.

Buy one, get one free!

Can you believe it? It’s budget time again! Can we get together for a chat tomorrow, say at ten, and start working on the draft?

Happy writing.

Image credit: Amber Parrow. ALPHABETAGEEK 


Business Writing Tip # 167—A Few Words about Sentences

2048px-Lego_Color_BricksSentences are one of the main units of writing, one of the building blocks. We have words, and we have paragraphs and, in between, we have sentences.

At its most basic a sentence has two parts: a subject and a predicate. And to be a complete sentence it must have both parts. In some writing incomplete sentences are fine, but in business writing it’s best to write complete sentences (writing sales copy is probably the only exception to this).

First some quick definitions . . .

Subject: who or what the sentence is about

Predicate: says something about the subject

The shortest complete sentence in English is:

I am.

‘I’ is the subject. ‘Am’ is the predicate.

To find the subject of your sentence, first find the main verb and then ask ‘who?’ or ‘what?’


Yesterday, after lunch, the client contacted me.

The main verb is ‘contacted’. Who or what contacted? The client.

But it’s not always simple . . .

Both parts of the sentence can be simple, complex or compound, or a combination of each.

This is where a careless writer may get into trouble, writing long, rambling sentences. A good rule of thumb on sentence length is ‘No sentence should have more than 20 words’.

Now, like all rules, you may need to break this one; it’s more general guidance than a rule.

Simplex, complex and compound

Here’s a simple example:

  • The committee has approved the proposal.

The subject is ‘the committee’ and the predicate is ‘has approved the proposal’.

Now a more complex example:

  • The Finance Committee, which met on Monday 13 April 2015, has approved the proposal put forward by the HR Committee that apart from graduate recruitment, recruitment be frozen for the next two months.

The simple subject is ‘the finance committee’ and the simple predicate is ‘approved the proposal’.

Then there are complex subjects and predicates:

  • The committee and the board have discussed and approved the proposal.

Here there are two nouns in the subject (the committee and the board) and two verbs relating to that subject (discussed and approved).

Happy writing.


Image by Alan Chia (Lego Color Bricks) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Business Writing Tip #166—It’s like writing to your Mum

some booksI’ve recently returned to Australia after many years abroad and one of the great joys, apart from watching the birds in the back yard, has been digging through my boxes of books that have been packed away for 18 years. My sister’s greatest joy is probably reclaiming space in her attic and spare room as I move my books out!

In amongst the books I discovered a gem by Dr George Stern called Spot on! Correspondence and report writing, with guidelines on plain English. As I rediscovered this little book I found a tip that I really like. Stern calls it the “Dear Mum” principle. He states that we use respectful, but normal, language when we write to our mothers, and that this is the kind of language which we should use when writing for business.

Here’s the list of examples he provides:

Officialese'Dear Mum' language
I refer to your letter of 1 May.Dear Mum, Thank you for your letter of 1 May.
I would appreciate an early response. Dear Mum, Please answer soon.
I appreciate your assistance. Dear Mum, Thank you for your help.
I will proceed providing you agree. Dear Mum, I will go ahead if you agree.
You wrote to me concerning the grant. Dear Mum, You wrote to me about the grant.
You wrote to me relating to the grant.Dear Mum, You wrote to me about the grant.
This is further to my last letter. Dear Mum, I am writing to you again.
It is my view that they are right.Dear Mum, I think that they are write.

Happy writing.

Business Writing Tip #165—More Plain English

I’ve written a few posts about plain English and gave you some expressions back in Tip #77. Remember KISS – Keep it Simple and Straightforward.Kiss - Rodin - Paris

Here are 25 more cumbersome expressions and useful replacements for them. Sometimes the replacements are complete omissions.


  • While I was in the process of writing this blog post, I drank two cups of coffee.
  • While I was writing this blog post . . .
  • During the month of February, sales figures increased by 3 percent.
  • During February . . .
is responsible forhandles
by means of by, with
comply with follow
has a requirement for needs, requires
have an adverse effect on hurt, set back
in accordance with by, following, per, under
in an effort to to
in order for for
in the process of (omit without replacement)
in view of because, since
is in consonance with agrees with follows
it is essential that [one] [one] must
it is incumbent upon [one] to [one] should, [one] must
it is requested that you please
pertaining to about, of, on
provide guidance for/to guide
relative to about, on
set forth in in
similar to like
successfully accomplish/complete accomplish/complete
take action to (omit without replacement)
the month (or year) of (omit without replacement)
the use of (omit without replacement)
under the provisions of Under
as prescribed by in, under