THE NEED FOR SUITABLE REPETITION GRAMMAR
In my post on Good and Bad Repetition, I suggested that repetition is good if it fulfils the purpose of linking or reminding. However, I also pointed out that repetition for these purposes must be expressed in a grammatically right way, as otherwise it will instead look like bad repetition – the same thing said twice, as if the writer had forgotten about the first mention (or was merely trying to fill up an empty page!).
REPETITION BY MEANS OF SUBORDINATING CONJUNCTIONS
An important grammatical means of successful repetition is subordinating conjunctions. The word as in the following sentence is one of these:
(a) As unemployment rises, wages will tend to fall.
The use of as causes the statement immediately after it (underlined) to sound less important than the rest of the sentence, so that the reader feels the sentence is not “about” it, but rather is about what the rest of the sentence is saying. In other words, the sentence is not about unemployment but rather about wages. The part after as is suggested to be “something you already know” – a crucial message in order to avoid bad repetition.
Not all conjunctions are subordinating ones, but most are. A list was given in the last post (36: Words Left out to Avoid Repetition). The main exceptions are and, but, so, for, or and nor. The main grammatical characteristic of subordinating conjunctions is that they can be used in formal writing as the first word in a sentence. A small number have a non-subordinating partner conjunction in the same sentence. For example, not only has but or but also, and just as has so:
(b) Machines need not only fuel, but also maintenance.
(c) Just as machines need fuel, so animals need food.
Sentence (b) is about maintenance, not fuel. If the writer wished to make it equally about both of them, s/he would use both … and instead. Sentence (c) is about animals, not machines.
REPETITION BY MEANS OF PREPOSITIONS
Most conjunctions can be paraphrased by a preposition of similar meaning. This can only happen, however, if the verb after the conjunction is either removed or given the –ing ending. Sentence (a) above can be written with a preposition like this:
(d) With a rise in unemployment, wages will tend to fall.
The original verb rises has here been made into the noun a rise. You could instead use rising either before or after unemployment. Examples of other conjunctions with their corresponding prepositions are because/because of, although/despite, before/before, (just) as/like and and/besides. Sentence (b) can thus be paraphrased as:
(e) Besides (needing) fuel, machines need maintenance.
REPETITION BY MEANS OF VERBAL NOUNS
A third way to subordinate an idea in a sentence is by changing a verb into a related noun. Consider this example:
(d) The heat of the sun causes moisture on the ground to evaporate and rise into the atmosphere. This evaporation enables clouds to form.
The underlined words are a repetition in noun form of the verbal statement evaporate … into the atmosphere. The reader easily understands that the second sentence is not “about” this. A point to note here is that not all nouns derived from verbs in this way show subordination. Here are two examples where this is not the case:
(e) Because of the sun’s heat, there is evaporation of moisture on the ground.
(f) The sun’s heat causes evaporation of moisture on the ground.
The most likely explanation of why the underlined nouns here are the main message of the sentence (i.e. not subordinated) is that they come after the beginning. It may also be that the nature of the verbs (there is and causes) is a factor.
REPETITION BY MEANS OF RELATIVE PRONOUNS AND ADJECTIVES
Another way to subordinate a repeated point is by means of relative pronouns (who, whom, which, that). Consider the statement Some television programmes are unsuitable for children. If we wished to say something about these television programmes in a much later sentence, where the reader needed first to be reminded of the original statement, we could repeat the sentence with which added before the verb, like this:
(e) Television programmes which are unsuitable for children …
The words which are unsuitable for children imply that the reader already knows that some TV programmes are unsuitable for children – in other words that a reminder is being given of this known fact. The new point (e.g. should not be shown in the early evening) could then be added onto the end of the sentence, its verb allowed there because of the joining nature of which.
Finally, good repetition can even be achieved with adjectives, participles and adjectival nouns. This is because these all do a similar thing to relative pronouns: describe nouns. The good repetition in (e) above can be rephrased with an adjective like this:
(f) Unsuitable television programmes should not be shown (to children) in the early evening.
A participle would be more likely where the verb in the corresponding relative clause was not a form of to be. If, for example, the words after which in (e) were require concentration, the subordination in (f) might be television programmes requiring concentration. Now here is a task to practise/test ability to use the various kinds of subordination.
PRACTICE: Repeat each point below by means of suitable words in the blank space after it (various answers are possible; suggestions are given below).
POINT 1: Large vehicles produce more greenhouse gases than small ones.
Large vehicles …………………………………………….. should be taxed heavily.
POINT 2: A gap is inevitable between rich and poor.
……………………………………………. needs to be explained.
POINT 3: Exercise maintains physical fitness.
Exercise ……………………………………………. ensures mental alertness.
POINT 4: New languages develop out of old ones.
…………………………………………… is illustrated by the emergence of French from Latin.
POINT 5: Some insects use clever concealment devices to escape predators.
…………………………………………… others are able to move very quickly.
1(a). Large vehicles, which produce more greenhouse gases than small ones, should be taxed heavily.
1(b). Large vehicles, since they produce more greenhouse gases than small ones, should be taxed heavily.
2(a) The inevitability of the gap between rich and poor needs to be explained.
2(b) The inevitable gap between rich and poor needs to be explained.
2(c) The fact that the gap between rich and poor is inevitable needs to be explained.
3(a) Exercise not only maintains physical fitness, but also ensures mental alertness.
3(b) Exercise, which maintains physical fitness, also ensures mental alertness.
3(c) Exercise, besides maintaining physical fitness, ensures mental alertness.
4(a) The development of new languages out of old ones is illustrated by the emergence of French from Latin.
4(b) New languages developing out of old ones are illustrated by the emergence of French from Latin.
4(c) The fact that new languages develop out of old ones is illustrated by the emergence of French from Latin.
5(a) Whereas some insects use clever concealment devices to escape predators, others are able to move very quickly.
5(b) Unlike those insects that use clever concealment devices to escape predators, others are able to move very quickly.