that these rules are too mechanical. If I'm just following all
rules, what's left of me in my sentences?"
LRS is not about rules. It's about principles that help you control
a range of styles. You have to decide how you want to approach your
readers, how you want them to understand what you have to say. Then
the LRS principles help you to know how to create a style to match
your objectives. Style is choice, and LRS is about giving you the
ability to make the choices that best serve your own purposes.
It is true, however, that LRS encourages you to think about the
process of writing mechanically. That's actually one of its biggest
Because they give you a way to achieve your goals mechanically, you
can apply these principles even when you're too close to your draft,
when you've been though the material once too often, or when you're
too tired to see your writing with a cold, clear eye. The mechanical
part of LRS helps you to see your own work as your readers will.
Just because LRS offers mechanical procedures, you don't have to
be a mechanical writer. Rather, LRS principles help you avoid getting
lost in the problem of how to achieve your goals, freeing you up
to concentrate on the question of what those goals should be.
The LRS approach has one more key advantage. Because LRS principles
help you focus on keeping your story straight as you tell it, they
also help you to get your story straight in the first place. Most
writers find that LRS principles impose a helpful discipline on their
thinking. When you use LRS principles, you
* make sure that you are yourself clear about what happens and who
is responsible for the actions;
* have a story to tell, not just a collection of empty sentences
with "to be" verbs;
* have to decide which objects and concepts are important enough
and familiar enough to your readers that you can treat them as characters
in your story. Eventually, you will find that you have to begin to
choose among characters, further shaping and molding your story to
make it yours.
" Do all subjects have to be agents?"
No. It is a good idea to make the subject the agent or "doer" of
the action. Readers will generally follow your story more easily
if you do express agents in the subject position. So you should make
an "agent-action" style your default style –the style you use when you have no particular reason to do
But when you do have a good reason, you can write clear and
effective sentences that do not have agents as subjects. The
a position, the slot in the sentence that normally comes before
that answers the question you get by putting "who" or "what" before
the verb. Subjects usually come first in clauses, but they
do not have to:
Down the street came a truck.
The reason for this decision we cannot understand.
There is a spider in my shirt.
Many writers remember the advice
the subject up front." But that's as misleading as the
definition of subject as doer. The subject will almost always
be up front,
even in the most unclear sentences:
The failure to understand
for the decision to terminate the program is a result of
ignorance of the actual processes of the committee.
What you do want to get up front in the subject position is
some person, object, or concept that is so important to your
story and so familiar to your readers that you want to make
it the centerpiece
of your story.
" What do I do when I am the agent of the action?
My teachers say I should never use 'I' or 'we'?"
Over the years, students have been given a lot of misleading
advice about using "I" and "we." Since your default
style should use agents as subjects, you should use "I" as
your subject if you have performed the crucial actions in your story
and you don't have a good reason to do otherwise. The complication
is that there might be a number of good reasons not to. You might
want to start your sentence with a character other than yourself.
Or you might be writing in a field that avoids "I" or "we" in
order to be "objective." In fact, writers in those fields
use "I" and "we" all the time – when
the action they write about is one that only they could have performed.
When, however, the action is one that is supposed to turn out the
same no matter who performed it – for example, the actions
a scientist performs in the lab – then writers often
avoid making themselves the character in the sentence and put
character in the subject position.