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If possible, I would like some help with the following sentence:

This vision demands that heterogeneous services, peripherals and platforms are provided with an expanded set of security guarantees to prevent third-party services from hijacking the platform, resource-level access control and accounting and strong isolation between running processes to prevent unauthorized access to third-party services and data.

This sentence expresses three necessary requirements to achieve a vision. The requirements are not all the possible requirements but all three are necessary. These are: (i) an expanded set of security guarantees, (ii) resource-level access control and accounting and (iii.) strong isolation. Written as-is there is some ambiguity/difficulty in parsing "...hijacking the platform, resource-level access control and accounting and strong isolation..." and the sentence could be improved. There are two reasons why I avoid splitting the requirements up as above: (1) I need this sentence in an abstract, so there is a character limit. (2) I feel like doing so makes it seem like the list is exhaustive, which it isn't.

Any idea on how to best tackle this?

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My stock solution to long running difficult to understand sentences is the obvious one (that you refer to as well :P ) of breaking it up. So I'll try that, while also honouring your requirements / preferences:

This vision demands that heterogeneous services, peripherals and platforms are provided with the following: an expanded set of security guarantees so as to prevent third-party services from hijacking the platform, resource-level access control and accounting, and strong isolation between running processes to prevent unauthorized access to third-party services and data.

Follow up - adding the possible / regularly used "," between your second and third guarantees (with the and), makes it easier to parse that, I think.


Alternate version employing semi-colons (and an extra "," before "so as to..."):

This vision demands that heterogeneous services, peripherals and platforms are provided with the following: an expanded set of security guarantees, so as to prevent third-party services from hijacking the platform; resource-level access control and accounting; and strong isolation between running processes to prevent unauthorized access to third-party services and data.

Any more help like that and I'll have to charge you though, I'm afraid :P.

  • Good answer, although I prefer the semi-colons. An alternative is to use a bulleted list for technical writing of this sort as it can be even clearer. – BoldBen Sep 12 '18 at 11:49
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Lets break up the sentence into its different parts...

1) This vision demands that heterogeneous services, peripherals and platforms

2) are provided with an expanded set of security guarantees

3) to prevent third-party services from hijacking the platform, (the reason for #2 )

4) resource-level access control and accounting

5) and strong isolation between running processes

6) to prevent unauthorized access to third-party services and data. (the reason for #4 and #5)

... and try to rearrange and adapt the numbered parts to resolve the ambiguities...

1) This vision demands that heterogeneous services, peripherals and platforms

2) are provided with an expanded set of security guarantees,

5) strong isolation between running processes and,

4) resource-level access-control and -accounting

3) to prevent third-party services from hijacking the platform and

6) to prevent unauthorized access to third-party services and data.

... and reassemble the sentence...

This vision demands that heterogeneous services, peripherals and platforms are provided with an expanded set of security guarantees, strong isolation between running processes and, resource-level access-control and -accounting to prevent third-party services from hijacking the platform and to prevent unauthorized access to third-party services and data.

The trade-off between this sentence and the original is that you get rid of the ambiguity, but you lose the indication of which reason for the requirements correlates with which requirement. And you use six extra characters. :)

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I'd leave the words in your sentence unchanged but make some changes in punctuation. First, add a comma after "accounting". The purpose of this comma is to clarify that the "and" before "accounting" is part of one of your three requirements, whereas the "and" after "accounting" separates requirement (ii) from requirement (iii). Second, put parentheses around the two explanations of the purposes behind requirements, namely "to prevent third-party services from hijacking the platform" and "to prevent unauthorized access to third-party services and data". The purpose of the parentheses is to emphasize the requirements themselves by allowing the reader to skip the reasons for the requirements on a first pass through the sentence.

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