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Consider the following phrase taken from a draft of my master's thesis:

In this chapter, the fundamental physiological principles will be presented that underlie the mathematical models and simulations of the subsequent chapters.

Is it grammatically correct to delay the relative clause ("...that underlie...") as I did? If yes, is it considered good style?

An obvious alternative would be

In this chapter, the fundamental physiological principles that underlie the mathematical models and simulations of the subsequent chapters will be presented.

but this is - in my opinion, that is - harder to read due to the relative clause separating subject and verb ("principles ... will be presented").

Also see the great The Science of Scientific Writing on the matter of subject-verb separation.

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    My personal opinion is that your 'delayed relative' sentence is clumsy. The second sentence reads much more smoothly. You could simply write: "The fundamental physiological principles that underlie the mathematical models and simulations of the subsequent chapters will be presented in this chapter."
    – tunny
    Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 11:55
  • Agree with tunny on clumsiness of the separation. You could also write This chapter will present the fundamental principles that underlie the mathematical models and simulations in later chapters.
    – TimR
    Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 11:58
  • I'm not an active-voice bigot, but just want to point out that many phrasing problems get a lot simpler when the active voice is in your prose toolkit.
    – TimR
    Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 12:01
  • Shouldn't "... physiological principles will be presented, which underlie the mathematical models ..." serve to improve? With a comma, and replacing that with* which,* that is.
    – Kris
    Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 14:25
  • Thanks for the notes! @tunny So I take it that the construction is legal but not considered nice?
    – Eike P.
    Commented Nov 19, 2014 at 10:47

1 Answer 1

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As TRomano observes in a comment above, the simplest way to resolve an awkward sentence structure involving a passive construction is to put the wording into active voice. More often than not, doing so reduces the number of words in the sentence and brings the verb and its object closer together.

In the OP's example, a number of verbs would work in the active-verb position:

This chapter presents/discusses/explores/examines/considers the fundamental physiological principles underlying the mathematical models and simulations used in subsequent chapters.

The result is a brisker, less ponderous style that readers are likely to find more enjoyable to read.

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