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  • A sentence should communicate one idea or two closely related ideas.
  • Put the most important part of the sentence at the beginning.
  • Keep the subject and verb together.
  • Avoid more than two embedded clauses (i.e. additional information) in the middle of a sentence.
  • If a sentence is longer than 30 words, it is often better split into two separate sentences.

Consider this difficult sentence:

Factors such as root depth, root density, water availability through different irrigation methods and more recently rhizosphere management affect rice crop hydration.

To make it clearer, put the most important part of the sentence at the beginning and keep subject and verb together. Lists are usually better placed at the end of the sentence:

Rice crop hydration is affected by factors such as root depth, root density, water availability through different irrigation methods and more recently rhizosphere management.

Adding extra pieces of information to a sentence is fine, but adding too much can make the sentence busy and more difficult to read.

Consider this difficult sentence:

If those receiving important emails refuse to have the courtesy to acknowledge receipt, even though they have ‘busy’ lives, which everyone has, people sending important emails will continue to be frustrated because they are left thinking: “Have they seen, not seen, deleted, ignored or not received my email?”

Here, there are four extra pieces of information – (subordinate clauses) – introduced by subordinate conjunctions (underlined), and the main clause (bold) is buried in the middle of the sentence:

If those receiving important emails refuse to have the courtesy to acknowledge receipt, even though they have ‘busy’ lives, which everyone has, people sending important emails will continue to be frustrated because they are left thinking: “Have they seen, not seen, deleted, ignored or not received my email?”.

Splitting the sentence and introducing the main clause first would be easier to read:

People sending important emails will continue to be frustrated when recipients refuse to have the courtesy to acknowledge receipt. Recipients claim they have ‘busy’ lives, which everyone has, yet senders are left thinking: “Have they seen, not seen, deleted, ignored or not received my email?”