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I want to bring more readability and structure in my sentences. I often write sentences in the following format / structure:

To incorporate A which can be seen as B with something of C (c.f. Sect. X) is important for D because of E.

A,B,C,D,E can be seen as some phrase / noun. My question is: how can I show that the clause: which can be seen as B with something of C (c.f. Sect. X) is just additional information of A that is necessary for the understanding and "is important" refers to the phrase To incorporate A not B or C?

In German, I would use "," before and after, but I never have seen this in English. Are there any other ways to make this sentence better readable and indicate the break of the which-part?

The only thing I came up with was the following rephrasing:

To incorporate A which can be seen as B with something of C (c.f. Sect. X), incoporating A is important for D because of E.

or to use brackets:

To incorporate A (which can be seen as B with something of C (c.f. Sect. X)) is important for D because of E.

Are there any other solutions / recommendations? What is the best way?

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  • Brackets would be my suggestion. Nov 17, 2021 at 14:36
  • 2
    Commas are fine in English and usually used to set off non-defining relative clauses. If you're worried about ambiguity or complexity, split it into multiple sentences.
    – Stuart F
    Nov 17, 2021 at 15:07
  • @StuartF, so to write: "To incorporate A, which can be seen as B with something of C (c.f. Sect. X), is important for D because of E. " is fine? Nov 17, 2021 at 15:45
  • 1
    Please provide a full intelligible sentence or sentences. This kind of abstract makes us having to come up with examples, in order to figure out if your lettered bits actually work.
    – Lambie
    Nov 17, 2021 at 23:49
  • I have edited your title in the spirit of your question, but as @Lambie says, please provide a concrete example. I have spent some time on an answer and it may turn out to be totally inappropriate for your subject matter.
    – David
    Nov 18, 2021 at 17:01

2 Answers 2

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The general case

As the question asks how to “bring more readability and structure” into sentences, I think it valid to point out a few consideration that, although not always are in many cases.

  • A long sentence may be difficult to understand because it contains too many concepts. The solution is often to separate these concepts into two separate sentences.
  • It may be difficult to find a solution to a problem because one is convinced that it should be possible within a particular chosen structure (in this case a clause starting with a relative pronoun, and the use of infinitive phrase). The answer is often to abandon this structure in favour of a more flexible alternative.
  • Is word order causing problems? The flexibility of English is such that the key concepts in a sentence can appear in different relative positions which affect naturalness of speech, emphasis, and association of the concepts. Identify which is most important in a particular case and see if changing the order improves things.

The specific case

In my view, the sentence in question suffers from all three of these problems, although the abstract nature of the example makes me unsure whether one of these can be remedied. Let me try.

  • I think one problem is the infinitive structure for the subject of the basic idea: “To incorporate A… is important”.

I suspect a wish to place A at the start of the sentence, but this creates a straight-jacket of complexity and an unnatural word order (although unfortunately common in academic and technical areas). Clearer (and nearer to what your mother might say) is:

It is important to incorporate…

  • The second problem, in my opinion, is that the clause in apposition to A separates it from D and E, the ideas with which it is conceptually associated.

To deal with this, while still retaining the apositional clause, I would sacrifice placing concept A at the start by changing the word order to:

Because of E, it is important for D to incorporate A…

which is still clear, and place the appositional clause in parentheses, replacing the current paretheses by an em-dash (or a comma):

…(which can be seen as B with something of C — c.f. Sect. X).

This would probably work without the standard solution of splitting the sentence into two, although doing so would allow a more natural word order. Without a concrete example from the poster I am unclear what is actually meant, but perhaps something like the following is possible:

It is important for D to incorporate A, because of E. (A can, in fact, be seen as B with something of C — c.f. Sect. X.)

or perhaps what the poster was after was something like:

Because of E, it is important for D to incorporate A — not B or C. (A can, in fact, be seen as B with something of C — c.f. Sect. X.)

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  • Apologies to @RosieF for restructuring my answer so her quote from the original is no longer what one sees. The principle remains.
    – David
    Nov 18, 2021 at 16:53
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David wrote "The first problem is that the sentence is too long, in which case the solution is generally to split it in two."

Here is one way:

A can be seen as B with something of C (cf. Sect. X). To incorporate A is important for D because of E.

This entails repeating A, but the context will probably allow you to replace the second A with a shorter phrase while still keeping it clear what you are referring to. For example

The procedure of A1 can be seen .... To incorporate this procedure is ....

Splitting the original sentence into two like this don't stop you from doing what David said in his second bullet point.

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