Writefull’s Full Edit is now out, powered by language models able to correct entire sentences like never before. But what exactly does this new level of feedback entail? In this short blog series, we’re taking a close look at four new categories of language feedback - this week, word order.
Word order in academic writing
Word order is a crucial part of sentence structure (also known as syntax). Getting it wrong is likely to affect understanding or make your sentences difficult to parse.
At the most basic level, a sentence follows a simple ‘noun’ + ‘verb’ + ‘complement’ sequence, e.g. Smith carried out a study. This word order is optimal for comprehension, and is helpful to adhere to as much as possible.
To avoid any ambiguity, a good rule of thumb is to place descriptive words and phrases as close as possible to the words they modify. Compare for example:
It is effective the use of IRR for assessing a project (the noun is detached from the verb) vs The use of IRR is effective for assessing a project (optimal word order)
In some cases, word order errors result from first language (L1) interference. For instance, the adverb + verb order in English (e.g. The study clearly shows that…) is reversed in French (L’étude montre clairement que…). This can lead to errors of the type *The study shows clearly that …
Common word order errors and how Writefull corrects them
The two following examples show evidence of L1 interference. Writefull’s language models accurately spot this, and correct the sentence to the natural word order in English.
In the example below, the subject (explaining variations in ambition) is separated from the predicate (is challenging) by the awkward placement of the connector however. Writefull’s models reposition the connector to the beginning of the sentence, making the whole easier to parse.
In the sentence below, the subordinate clause (in this study) occurs at an unusual place. Because we would expect such contextual information earlier on, Writefull relocates the clause at the beginning of the sentence.