Notes from the Editor – May 2016

Branch to the right

English is a subject-verb-object language. And it is considered a right-branching language.

In right-branching sentences, the subject is described first, and is followed by modifiers that provide additional information about the subject.

The prince raised the sword, clutching the hilt in both hands, grinning with madness.

In left-branching sentences, however, modifiers are presented before the introduction of the subject and verb. We are kept in suspense. We get the details first, then get to the main point. Turkish, for instance, is a left-branching language.

Clutching the hilt in both hands, grinning with madness, the prince raised the sword.

Then there are mid-branching sentences, where the subject is put on hold and information is introduced until we reach the main verb. It causes interruptions in the flow of sentences.

The prince, clutching the hilt in both hands, grinning with madness, raised the sword.

Left-branching sentences and mid-branching sentences lack the versatility and fluidity of right-branching sentences. They are less clear, disjointed, and harder to grasp.

In right-branching sentences, the natural emphasis is placed on the sentence’s main subject. It is at the forefront of the reader’s mind. That’s why right-branching sentences are generally held to be easier to read than other branching styles.

Unless you are writing fiction and you need suspense, opt for right-branching sentences. Keep your main subject and verb together and present them early in the sentence. Do not transfer the left-branching style of Turkish sentences into your English translations.

Check this brilliant article for more information:


Create, Narrate, Punctuate: How to Fashion Exquisitely Styled Sentences, Ramy Tadros, 2014