Reading B – dealing with long sentences

Reading B often has lots of long sentences, some of which can extend over four or even five lines without a full stop. When a sentence is this long, it can be hard for even a native speaker to hold all of the sentence meaning in their head at once. One way you can try to simplify long sentences is by cutting out phrases that are between brackets, commas or dashes – let’s look at some examples.

 

Other ways to minimise stomach upset are to start at a low dose and gradually increase as tolerated (e.g. start with alternate daily dosing then increase to daily or twice daily dosing) or give smaller, more frequent doses (e.g. use oral liquid in divided doses)

If we try to simplify this sentence by removing the information in the brackets, we get a much shorter and easier to understand sentence: “Other ways to minimise stomach upset are to start at a low dose and gradually increase as tolerated or give smaller, more frequent doses

 

The incidence of meningitis changed by −31% (95% confidence interval [CI], −33 to −29) during the surveillance period, from 2.00 cases per 100,000 population (95% CI, 1.85 to 2.15) in 1998–1999 to 1.38 cases per 100,000 population (95% CI 1.27 to 1.50) in 2006–2007.

Again, we can take this quite complicated research sentence, and ignore the information between the brackets to get a much simpler sentence: “The incidence of meningitis changed by −31% during the surveillance period, from 2.00 cases per 100,000 population in 1998–1999 to 1.38 cases per 100,000 population in 2006–2007”

 

Close and prolonged contact – such as kissing, sneezing or coughing on someone, or living in close quarters (such as a dormitory, sharing eating or drinking utensils) with an infected person – facilitates the spread of the disease.

Here we have brackets and dashes – we can change this sentence multiple ways. If we ignore what is in the brackets we get: “Close and prolonged contact – such as kissing, sneezing or coughing on someone, or living in close quarters with an infected person – facilitates the spread of the disease.”

We can simplify it even further though, by removing what is between the brackets and between the dashes: “Close and prolonged contact facilitates the spread of the disease.”

 

This is an important trick to remember for reading complex sentences in reading B – if you are really stuck try re-reading the sentence but leaving out one of the parts of the sentence, and see if that makes the meaning clearer.

Thanks!

Aug 29, 2017

James Bergfield

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