Style Matters #17: Don’t be tripped up by inversions or transpositions

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Experienced writers sometimes use two compositional techniques, inversion and transposition, to bring clarity, emphasis or even variety to their prose.

Yet too much of either is both irritating for readers and can dilute their intended linguistic effectiveness.

But what do these terms mean?

Well, the basic form sentences take is typically subject-verb-object.

The book you wanted to read (the subject) is (verb) here (object).

If you invert this sentence, you opt to place the emphasis on another element.

Here is the book you wanted to read.

Let’s take another sentence that has been expressed in its natural order.

The player is cashing in his chips at the height of his fame.

If you transpose its main elements, it still works well. However, you need to remember to use a comma to indicate the swap.

At the height of his fame, the player is cashing in his chips.

Stand-alone sentences can often be manipulated in multiple ways. For instance:

Sinister forces were at work beneath the seemingly stable political surface.

Beneath the seemingly stable political surface, sinister forces were at work.

At work beneath the seemingly stable political surface were sinister forces. 

But writers also need to be aware of the context in which a sentence is situated because inversion or transposition may render the text – as a whole – nonsensical, unclear or confused.

That is why it is important to proof-read your writing closely, because inversion and transposition can easily trip you up.

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If you like what you’ve read here, you can see reporting4work’s similar posts at Style Matters

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