Take control of your writing skills

 

Sentence complexity is measured in T-units (terminable unit). A T-unit is a main or independent clause with all its modifiers. It is calculated by dividing the number of words to the number of T-units (Kellog Hunt, 1970).

This sentence was written by an eighth-grader:

Aluminum is an abundant metal, has many uses, and comes from bauxite. Bauxite is an ore that looks like clay.

It has 2 T-units, with a length of 10 (20 words divided by 2 T-units)

  1. Aluminum is an abundant metal, has many uses, and comes from bauxite
  2. Bauxite is a an ore that looks like clay.

Now take a look at this sentence, written by an adult:

Aluminum, an abundant metal with many uses, comes for bauxite, a clay-like ore.

This sentence has 1 T-unit and 14 words. It has a T-unit length of 14, much better than the eghth-grader’s.

Now, take a look at the introductory sentence written by one of my students:

Technology has started take a serious part in our daily life. Now we can do many thing much easier than past. We are getting more reliant to it everyday and this causes to lose some basic skills.

It has the following T-units:

  1. Technology has started take a serious part in our daily life
  2. Now we can do many thing much easier than past
  3. We are getting more reliant to it everyday
  4. this causes to lose some basic skills.

33 words and 4 T-units make a T-unit length of 8.25 (Remember, an eighth-grader’s T-unit length is 10).

How can we improve the T-length of my student’s sentence?

Taking a serious part in our daily life, and allowing us to do things much more easily, technology has made us become so reliant on it, that we have started to lose some of our basic skills.

This sentence has 35 words and 1 T-unit, a T-unit length of 35.

How did I accomplish that?

First, I corrected some errors such as “do many thing much easier”: after the verb “do” an adverb should follow: do things easily – in the comparative form: do things more easily.

Then, I noticed that these sentences have the same subject, namely, Technology, which means that I can connect all of them in one or 2 T-units by changing some verbs into nouns.

How do we change verbs into nouns? By adding -ing: V-ing functions as a noun, not as a verb.

Technology takes a serious part in our daily life becomes: Taking a serious part in our daily life…

Now we can do things more easily becomes: and allowing us to do things more easily.

I could do that because the word Technology does both actions: it allows us to do things more easily and  plays an important part in our lives.

Then, I introduce the subject, Technology.

Technology has made us reliant on it – this is in fact the main part of my T-unit because it is an independent sentence (it has meaning on its own).

In order to introduce the last part of the idea into the same T-unit, I used the structure “so…that”

Technology has made us so reliant on it that we have started to lose some of our basic skills.

Here is the paragraph again:

Taking a serious part in our daily life, and allowing us to do things much more easily, technology has made us become so reliant on it, that we have started to lose some of our basic skills.

Now, let’s look at the next paragraph:

For example, one of the most useful and widespread items is satellite navigation. It really helps us to reach destinations easily and without any time waste. Another benefit, is these navigation devices contain locations of most popular places. But many people are no longer learning the places, roads and the also the city they live. Sometimes you might find yourself in stranger places because navigation isn’t accurate all the time.

the T-units are as follows:

  1. For example, one of the most useful and widespread item is satellite navigation.
  2. It really helps us to reach destinations easily and without any time waste.
  3. Another benefit, is these navigation devices contain locations of most popular places.
  4. But many people are no longer learning the places, roads and the also the city they live.
  5. Sometimes you might find yourself in stranger places because navigation isn’t accurate all the time.

70 words and 5 T-units: that makes a T-length of 14, which is less than the average of an adult speaker’s T-unit.

Can this be improved though? Let’s take a look at this:

For example, one of the most useful and widespread items is satellite navigation. It really helps us to reach destinations easily and without any time waste, in addition to containing the addresses of the most popular places in a city. The downside of it, however, is that many people no longer learn these places or the roads of the city they live in and because of that they might indeed end up in the wrong place because this technology is not always accurate.

This version has 3 T-units and 83 words, that is a T-unit length of 27, way above the average adult T-unit length:

  1. For example, one of the most useful and widespread item is satellite navigation.
  2. It really helps us to reach destinations easily and without any time waste, in addition to containing the addresses of the most popular places in a city.
  3. The downside of it, however, is that many people no longer learn these places or the roads of the city they live in and because of that they might indeed end up in the wrong place because this technology is not always accurate.

Let’s see what you can do with my student’s next paragraphs. The text is divided in T-units:

  1. In my opinion people should still know how to read a map and the places where they live
  2. because in a technological apocalypse we need basic survival skills.
  3. On the other hand modern technology has more benefits than drawbacks
  4. because technology brought us new job opportunities.
  5. So people can now learn and employ new skills like photo and video editing, and 3D graphic design.
  6. As a result of safety systems that modern vehicles have, the rate of traffic accidents and deaths has decreased.
  7. By internet we can connect people all around the world and exchange information and goods.
  8. Having said that we need to be careful about modern technology
  9. but we cant deny the positive effects.
  10. Some skills will be lost as a progress of the history.
  11.  Send us the improved paragraph by clicking on Contact in the main menu.