Beginning Sentences Correctly and Effectively in Your Thesis or Dissertation

Beginning Sentences Correctly and Effectively in Your Thesis or Dissertation
Each sentence of the scholarly English prose you write for your thesis or dissertation should start in ways that are precise and complete, and certain elements of writing should never appear in that initial position. Numerals, for instance, must be avoided, so any number at the beginning of a sentence should instead be written out as words. If writing the relevant number as words would prove long and cumbersome, the sentence should be reworded to avoid using the number first. Many abbreviations must also be avoided at the beginning of sentences, although acronyms and initialisms are usually acceptable. Ideally, English sentences should not start with conjunctions such as ‘and,’ ‘or,’ ‘but’ and ‘so,’ although the occasional lapse in this regard, even in formal scholarly writing, is usually tolerated as long as the sentence does not begin a paragraph, the meaning is clear for readers and the rhythm of the prose is effective.

It is important to remember that when a descriptive phrase such as ‘Whenever she walks’ or ‘In 1996’ is used at the beginning of a sentence, it applies to everything that follows until the subject changes or is restated. This means that ‘In 1996 he wrote his first story and began to work on longer texts in 1998’ is a problematic sentence because the date 1996 applies incorrectly to ‘began’ as well as correctly to ‘wrote,’ so rewording is necessary. Either ‘He wrote his first story in 1996 and began to work on longer texts in 1998’ or ‘In 1996 he wrote his first story and in 1998 he began to work on longer texts’ would be more accurate and better English.
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Sentences are often rendered problematic because they begin with dangling participles, which can also turn up elsewhere in sentences. A dangling participle occurs when a participle or participial phrase is followed by a word other than the subject it modifies. A clear example can be seen in ‘Having found the correct medication, the ailing cat was finally treated.’ In such a simple sentence, it may be clear to the reader that the person treating the cat is the one who ‘found the correct medication,’ but the sentence does not actually say that. It says that ‘the ailing cat’ was the one who ‘found the correct medication’ because the cat is the subject that appears immediately after the participial phrase. This sentence should therefore be reworded so that its syntax accurately reflects reality: ‘Having found the correct medication, the veterinarian finally treated the ailing cat.’

Dependent clauses of other kinds that tend to appear at the beginning of sentences can present problems as well, particularly when they are mistakenly used as independent clauses or full sentences. Although a dependent clause contains a subject and a verb (as the opening clause of this sentence does), it does not express a complete thought; instead, it often begins with a dependent marker word such as ‘after,’ ‘when,’ ‘if,’ ‘because’ and ‘although’ that leaves the reader waiting for the completion of the thought. ‘After he drafted his thesis’ and ‘Because she is afraid of the water’ are good examples. As an incomplete thought, a dependent clause should be followed by a comma and an independent clause that does complete the thought – ‘After he drafted his thesis, he had it proofread by a professional editor’ – or preceded by an independent clause that clarifies the context: ‘We did not bring our dog on the boat trip because she is afraid of the water.’

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At we offer the highest quality journal article editing, phd thesis editing and proofreading services via our large and extremely dedicated team of academic and scientific professionals. All of our proofreaders are native speakers of English who have earned their own postgraduate degrees, and their areas of specialisation cover such a wide range of disciplines that we are able to help our international clientele with research editing to improve and perfect all kinds of academic manuscripts for successful publication. Many of the carefully trained members of our expert editing and proofreading team work predominantly on articles intended for publication in scholarly journals, applying painstaking journal editing standards to ensure that the references and formatting used in each paper are in conformity with the journal’s instructions for authors and to correct any grammar, spelling, punctuation or simple typing errors. In this way, we enable our clients to report their research in the clear and accurate ways required to impress acquisitions proofreaders and achieve publication.

Our scientific proofreading services for the authors of a wide variety of scientific journal papers are especially popular, but we also offer manuscript proofreading services and have the experience and expertise to proofread and edit manuscripts in all scholarly disciplines, as well as beyond them. We have team members who specialise in medical proofreading services, and some of our experts dedicate their time exclusively to PhD proofreading and master’s proofreading, offering research students the opportunity to improve their use of formatting and language through the most exacting PhD thesis editing and dissertation proofreading practices. Whether you are preparing a conference paper for presentation, polishing a progress report to share with colleagues, or facing the daunting task of editing and perfecting any kind of scholarly document for publication, a qualified member of our professional team can provide invaluable assistance and give you greater confidence in your written work.

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