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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Location, Location, Location

Just a quick observation about the end of a sentence. The end of a sentence is its most emphatic part. So what you want to put at the end is what you want the reader to come away remembering. Here's a sentence the way it was originally written from an article I recently edited.

"Still, some doctors advise avoiding sex in the last few weeks of pregnancy as a general safety precaution."

What is the most important thing for the reader to focus on? It's not the fact that there's a general safety precaution. It's when sex should be avoided. Moving the final phrase earlier in the sentence, puts the emphasis where it belongs.

"Still, as a general safety precaution, some doctors advise avoiding sex in the last few weeks of pregnancy."

Now the reader has a much better chance of remembering the advice.


  1. I think I would change "in" to "during".

    What do you think?

    Peace - Rene

  2. Hmmm. . . Grandpa. . .I hadn't thought of it that way before. And it is interesting.

    But my natural instinct (without any context) would have been to edit it this way to make sure the intended audience perked up to recognize we were speaking to them.

    "In the last few weeks of pregnancy, a general saftey precaution that some doctors advise is to avoid sex."

    As potential support of your thinking, I have heard that people who have memory problems benefit from putting the key info at the end of the sentence.

    For instance, don't ask, "Do you want the red or green shirt?" because they will repeat the last word.

    So instead ask, "Do you want to wear the shirt that is red or green?"

    So maybe the mind is more mapped to remember the phrases at the end of a sentence.

  3. Thanks, Lilly and Gran.

    Rene, I think "during" is a good edit It's actually more specific.

    45 and aspiring. There is merit to your edit. And you've also done a good job using both emphatic parts of a senetence -- beginning and end. You've put the time when to avoid sex at the beginning, which creates context for what follows, and you've put the actual advice at the end -- avoid sex. That works for me. The question is which is the most important thing for the reader to remember, to avoid having sex or when to avoid it? so I still think I'd go with my edit, although, I wouldn't have changed the sentence if I had gotten it the way you wrote it.