Readers want actions in verbs, but even more they want characters as subjects. We give readers a problem where for no good reason we don not name character in subjects, or worse, delete them entirely.

  • There was fear that there would be a recommendation for a budget reduction.

Who fears? Who recommends? Who reduces?

  • The staff feared that the Executive would recommend its managers reduce budgets.

When writing or revising, ensure that main characters are the subjects of your sentences and that their key actions are verbs.

  • A decision was made in favour of doing a study of the disagreements.

Who decided? Who will study?

Reconstructing absent characters

  • Research strategies that look for more than one variable are of more use in understanding factors in psychiatric disorder than strategies based on the assumption that the presence of psychopathology is dependent on a single gene or on strategies in which only one biological variable is studied.

Who looks? Who understands? Who studies? Let us say that 'researchers' do these things:

  • Researchers trying to understand the causes of psychiatric disorder should adopt strategies that look for more than one variable rather than those which assume the presence of psychopathology is dependent on a single gene or in which only one biological variable is studied.
  • Researchers trying to understand the causes of psychiatric disorder should adopt strategies that look for more than one biological variable or a single gene when predicting the presence of psychopathology.
  • To understand the causes of psychiatric disorders, strategies that look for more than one biological variable or single gene should be used when attempting to predict the presence of psychopathology.

Here the characters are abstract nouns.

  • The argument is this. The cognitive component of intention exhibits a high degree of complexity. Intention is temporally divisible into two: prospective intention and immediate intention. The cognitive function of prospective intention is the representation of a subject's similar past actions, his current situation, and his course of future actions. That is, the cognitive component of prospective intention is a plan. The cognitive function of immediate intention is the monitoring and guidance of ongoing bodily movement.

There are no human characters in this passage which has as its subjects: prospective intention and immediate intention. We ought to revise to tell the story from the perspective of a human character.

  • In attempting to describe the cognitive component of intention, the researchers argued that it exhibits a high degree of complexity and is temporally divisible into two: prospective intention and immediate intention. The subject's similar past actions represent the cognitive function of prospective intention (i.e. the subject's plan); whereas, the subject's ongoing bodily movement represents the cognitive function of immediate intention.

 

  • I argue this about intention. It has a complex cognitive component of two temporal kinds: prospective and immediate. We use prospective intention to represent how we have acted in our past and present and how we will act in the future. That is, we use the cognitive component of prospective intention to help us plan. We use immediate intention to monitor and guide our bodies as we move them.

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