Twc Chapter 5 Using Plain And Persuasive Language


Style is the way writers present the subject of their work. Writing can be conveyed in three different styles: plain, persuasive, and grand. Plain style emphasizes clarity to facilitate the reader’s ability to understand the information given. Persuasive style functions to urge the audience to adopt a way of thinking or react in a certain way. Grand style is often used by speakers to instill emotion or obligation into their audience. Plain style and persuasive style are more commonly used in technical communication, in which straightforwardness and efficiency are valued, because they relay information without the unnecessary ornateness of grand style.

There are three main parts of a sentence:

  • Subject is the noun in question.
  • Verb is the action taken by the subject.
  • Commentary provides a more general description of what the situation is involving the subject.

The components of a sentence are manipulable so that the subject, verb, and commentary can change, but still have the same meaning.

How to Write Plain Sentences:

  1. Make the noun in focus the subject of the sentence.
  2. The subject, usually a person, should commit an action.
  3. The verb should be the action committed by the subject.
  4. The subject should be as close to the start of the sentence as possible.
  5. Avoid turning verbs and adjectives into nouns (nominalization). Keep them as verbs and adjectives for shorter
  6. Don’t use too many prepositional phrases. To reduce the amount of prepositional phrases, turn some of them into adjectives.
  7. Only say what you want to say once. Don’t use a word to modify its synonym (redundancy).
  8. Keep sentences a reasonable length, as readers tend to breathe at the end of the sentence, not in the middle. Make the sentence a comfortable breathing length by merging and splitting up sentences.

When writing the first draft, style should not be a concern. It should be something that you take into account during the revision process by applying the advice above. This process of reorganizing, moving, deleting, lengthening, and shortening parts of the sentence can be facilitated with the use of a computer.

A common application of employing plain-style writing is using translation services, especially software programs. Some tips for a more accurate translation are:

  • Break down the text to be translated into the simplest sentences possible.
  • Keep use of punctuation limited to periods, commas, and question marks.
  • Do not vary your vocabulary too much—if referring to the same thing more than once, use the same word.
  • Do not use figures of speech, such as metaphors, sayings, and clichés, as they are commonly only used in the language that you are translating from.
  • Do not use cultural, historical, or sports-related terminology.
  • Double check the translation that you are given by translating it back to English (or whatever language you understand.
  • Spellcheck the input text and the output text.
  • Don’t use ambiguous words, especially when both senses of the word make sense.
  • Avoid acronyms and specialized, esoteric lexis
  • Do not translate wordplay

The next step to learning how to write in plain style is learning how to write a plain paragraph.
The four types of sentences that make up a paragraph are:

1. Transition

  • Connects previous paragraph with the current one, making your writing more fluid
  • First sentence of the paragraph
  • Optional

2. Topic

  • Establishes what the reader will expect of you by specifying a goal
  • At the beginning of the paragraph—best for skimming
  • Most important sentence of the paragraph

3. Support

  • Fulfills the goal(s) in the topic sentence
  • Provides examples, reasoning, facts, data, anecdotes, definitions, and descriptions

4. Point

  • Concluding sentence of the paragraph, reinforces the topic
  • Optional—should be used in long paragraphs, but not in short ones

Clarity is an important element of plain style, and a good way to ease the reader’s understanding is to align the subjects. This is achieved by keeping the subjects constant in most of the sentences of the paragraph, making focus of the paragraph clearer. A second technique to make paragraphs plainer is the given/new method, which links each sentence together by referencing information given in the previous sentence to provide new, related information. Sometimes not enough information is given, so a transitional phrase is required to provide more information about the previously referenced subject.

According to Technical Writing for CCNY, it is appropriate to use passive voice when the subject of a sentence is the one being acted upon. For example, if the subject is a burger and I want to say I cooked the burger, then passive voice would be “The burger was cooked.” In order to figure out if one needs passive voice, one must question whether the reader knows who did the action in the sentence. Moreover, in order to use persuasive style, there are four persuasion techniques described in this chapter.

1. Elevate the Tone: tone is described as how a reader will hear the reading. In order to elevate the tone, one must first pick out which emotion they’re trying to portray. They then provide a map that allows you to expand on the initial emotion you’re trying to portray. For example, if you’re trying to get the reader to feel excited, you’d put that emotion in the middle of a page, and start expanding and making a map of related key words that would evoke this emotion, so in this case it would be energy, inspiring, progressive, uplifting, etc. Also, if you want to use an authoritative tone, you’d do the same by mapping out words that convey a sense of that association with that tone that you want to achieve. However, it is noted that overusing the descriptive words will make the setting of the emotion way too obvious, which will hurt you as a writer. 
2. Similes and Analogies: these rhetorical devices are used to help a writer break down complex concepts and allow the reader to fully understand them, and put the concepts in perspective. Similes compare concept X with example Y, while analogies compare A to B as C is to D. Analogies are in parallel structure, which also helps the reader visualize difficult concepts. 
3. Metaphors: these devices are similar to similes and analogies, but they delve deeper than similes and analogies. Metaphors create a certain perspective towards the subject or idea, and depending on how you want the reader to think, you’ll tailor your metaphor towards the goal. The textbook gives the example of “the war on medicine.” This metaphor helps create a sense of urgency because of the connotation of “war.”
4.Change the pace: If a writer uses longer sentences, this tends to slow down the reading pace, and vice versa with shorter sentences. The length of a sentence helps increase or decrease the intensity of the text. The longer the sentence, the more you’ll give the reader a sense that there’s no rush, and they can be cautious. 
It is then said that a document should primarily use plain style text. The persuasive style should come into play in order to add energy and make the text more interesting. 


Your document's style expresses your attitude toward the subject. It reflects your character by embodying the values, beliefs, and relationships you want to share with the readers. (p. 113)

By changing the subject of the sentence, you essentially shift its focus, drawing your readers' attention to different issues. (p.114)

… the given/new method is based on the assumption that readers try to process new information by comparing it to information they already know. (p. 127)

By paying attention to tone, you can influence the readers' inner voice in ways that persuade them to read the document with a specific emotion or attitude. (p. 130)

Specifically, metaphors are used to create or reinforce a particular perspective that you want readers to adopt toward your subject or ideas. (p. 132)


This chapter was very educational in helping evaluate my own experiences with reading. I find that I spend a lot more time reading some texts than others. It is evident that the sentence structures of the more arduous texts are much more complex, but from reading about plain language in this chapter, I was able to take notice of the position of the subject and how it often was not at the beginning of the sentence. As some books do like to employ more grand styles as opposed to the plain and persuasive language of technical writings in the workplace, I'd like to try to find the benefits of using grand styles over plain and persuasive styles. I might even try to consider how I would write the same content in plain style and compare it with the original.

The authors were successful in breaking down the basic units of writing, the sentence and the paragraph. A hierarchy of the components of each a sentence and a paragraph were clearly outlined. They included what components were necessary in what situation, such as the point sentence in a paragraph. After describing the parts of sentences and paragraphs, they explained in the guidelines how to apply this knowledge to create plain writing. However, it was confusing when they referred to “the subject slot,” which was never directly explained.

This chapter used a lot of examples in exhibiting plain language as opposed to unclear writing. These examples were very useful in showing the difference in clarity before employing the chapter’s techniques and afterward, adding to their credibility in the eyes of the reader. The examples also serve to increase the reader’s understanding of the explanations of techniques and guidelines, which was what made “the subject slot” more understandable. The examples on passive voice helped me understand when to use passive voice better than the description because I couldn't immediately think of a case where the noun doing the action wasn't important information to the rest of the sentence. For the persuasive style writing techniques, particularly the similes and analogies, the examples showed the techniques explicitly, and then they were recapped with a general model, "A is to B as X is to Y."

Chapter 5 deals pretty much deals with ways to make your writing sound interesting. The second half of the chapter dives into the importance of passive voice. Passive voice adds to persuasive style, and in my opinion, it allows the reader to engage in the writer’s text. It is important to note that when using passive voice, you have to make sure the reader knows who the subject of the sentence is. The author introduces the importance of passive voice by giving a sentence example in both active and passive voice, and then explaining why the passive voice is a better choice in these cases. For example, I could say “I am driving my car to the Hamptons.” But to make it more interesting, I’d write, “My BMW will be driven to the beautiful beaches of the Hamptons.”
Moreover, when introducing persuasive style, the author breaks it down into four separate techniques, that I found very helpful. By starting out with “elevating the tone,” the author first defines what it means to elevate the tone. He then gives examples and I liked the format of it because he includes a flow chart to help visualize the word map and set an example for the reader so they can apply it to their writing as well.

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