Top 3 Tips for Writing Crisp Sentences

My friends often email me seeking help with writing. This post adds to the reply I gave to one of my friends who asked:

What should I look for to construct better sentences?

I assume the question relates more to work-related writing (jotting thoughts down) than speaking. So, I am slightly changing the question to fit it as the topic for the post. 😊

Here are my top 3 suggestions for writing better sentences:

Tip 1: Give Action Points

Whether it is emails, meeting notes, Sprint retrospections, or a web chat with a colleague, clarity in communication is of the utmost importance. Be clear with what you wish to say. Write, then read (and, if required, re-write). Then, send. But, please mind the gap; there is a difference between being straightforward and being offensive.

Tip 2: Use Active Voice

Consider that Ram is preparing meeting minutes. This is what he writes as an action item:

Inputs on project estimation must be given.

See how he skips mentioning the doer in this passive sentence. That’s usually with every passive sentence. Let us rephrase this to introduce active voice (and hence the doer):

Shyam needs to give inputs to the PMO for project estimation.

See how sentences in the active voice clearly define responsibilities? Had Ram circulated an email with a passive sentence, we wouldn’t even know Shyam was supposed to share his inputs.

But, should we always construct sentences in the active voice?

No. In cases when you generalize or do not have any recipient for actions, you may use the passive voice. For example:

The velocity improved for the Sprint.

In this case, because the velocity improved for the entire team, we are sure that each one of the teammates contributed more. You may also use the passive voice for highlighting facts and figures. In the same example:

The velocity improved by over 5% for the Sprint.


An average of 5% capacity is reserved for holidays.

(Considering reservation of capacity to be a known item for capacity planning.)

Tip 3: Remove Needless Words

There are words that do not add to the meaning or intensity of the words they accompany. For example, “very” and “really”. However, approach this tip with caution.

Consider this example:

This cake takes very good.

We might as well get rid of “very”, and the cake will still taste equally good. But, by no means should you take this as a rule of thumb for deleting all occurrences of “very”. The very purpose of “very” (pun intended) is to intensify something that already exists.

If, however, there is a rule of thumb, it is to seek brevity. Look for opportunities to shorten or, at least, vary the length of your sentences. This means you give the reader more opportunities to flow with the rhythm of the words, take sufficient pauses, and contemplate on what they read.

Bonus Tip: Listen to Your Mental Ears

I really like such sections—another exception to Tip#3. Readers would usually jump over to this section first. If you too did just that, welcome aboard. As I share my top 3 tips for writing better sentences, I see that most of us already know the tips. The problem is they don’t know how to put that knowledge into practice.

How do we identify what and when to change?

I’d say listen to your mental ears. They are never wrong. You can always check for the meanings of words or phrases you are not sure of. Look at your write-ups the next day. Take a print out and read out loud. Project the write-ups on a bigger screen. Let someone else read your write-ups out loud to you. Take a break and re-read your write-ups. There’s a lot that can come in handy. But, nothing beats the joy of rewriting. Before I release my posts, I write and rewrite them in the proportion of 1:4.


Let us revise:

  • Enlist actionable items. I just did that.
  • Use active voice, but don’t be offensive.
  • Remove words that do not affect or contribute to the meaning of your sentences.

Sub-topics like “varying lengths of sentences” demand a post of their own. We can even experiment with including a combination of words that produce lyrical or homophonic composition: “she sells seashells”.

To sum up this post, here’s what I have: it all depends on finding the sweet spot where meet relevance and comprehension.

Happy writing.

Posted in Technical Writing | Tagged , , , , ,

Movie in Review: Simmba

While it is true that the first half of the movie reverberates on the tunes of “Hakuna Matata” (meaning “no worries”), the lead of the movie, Simmba—mind the two Ms, please—isn’t essentially the same Simba from the Disney’s classic, The Lion King; Simmba is the shortened form for Sangram Bhalerao. If you are in rush, here’s the review: 4 stars for the first half and 2, for the second. With an average of 3 stars, the movie remains a one-time watch.

A detailed review follows…

This is a rather exception from the Rohit Shetty Production house where you don’t see a single car blown to ashes. But, there’s still a lot of glass (or compound sugar) shattering away in action sequences. To top it all, spoiler alert everybody, you have Ajay Devgn’s voiceover at the start, and later, his cameo—yes, with the background score from Singham. Still, if I were to hold my thoughts for a moment, I’d say that the movie is made to officially announce the sequels ahead—one each for the Golmaal and Singham threads. But, there’s more: Sooryavanshi is planned for April 2019 and from Akshay Kumar’s introduction in the closing sequence of Simmba, we know he is playing the lead.

Let us look at the things that Rohit Shetty got right. And, the foremost is the cast. The character-cast combination is spot-on in most of the cases. Also, the use of Marathi in the movie is as much as the Marathi cast—Suchita Bandekar, Siddhartha Jadhav, Sulbha Tai, Ashwini Kalsekar, Vijay Patkar, Saurabh Gokhale, Ashok Samartha, and Arun Nalawade (Shwaas fame). Those are only some of the big names.

The locations are majorly Goa and Kolhapur—I know you guessed the first one. The sequences are woven around the Kolhapur temple courtyard. The songs are good, but none beats (pun intended) “Aankh Maarey”. Overall, a satisfactory score. The comedy quotient of this movie takes the cake: there are absolutely no false dialogues. You can watch it with your family without having to melt out of shame. Kudos to the writers! The plot of the movie scores for its theme. Quoting the movie, “the goons should experience the fear that girls or women have on their late-night travel”. For any impact to last, the life lessons and punishments must be hard. This matches the theme.

Now, a couple of things that Rohit could have gotten right. The story has a flow, which is where Rohit got it wrong. Now, stay with me as we go back in time. Remember Singham, in 2011? What song plays as the ringtone of Gotya? “Dhingka-chika” from Ready. Keep that in your memory and come back to 2018. Here you have Simmba (as a child) wishing to be like Singham, who hails from his hometown. Back into that memory lane, we see a 10 or 12-year-old boy. Fast forward to 2018, he has transformed into a money-laundering hulk. Ready, the movie, released in 2011. And, Rohit covered this span of roughly 7 years (from 2011 to 2018) to depict a transformation that could well have taken double the time. Do the math.

Selecting Sonu Sood for Durva Ranade was risky because he could not bring off the Marathi pronunciation. Ashok Samartha, who played Jaikant Shikre’s right-hand man in Singham in 2011 to perfection, would have been a better Durva Ranade. Amongst the brothers of Durva, Saurabh was good, but Amrit Singh was far from Marathi.

In one scene, someone incorrectly uses Ranveer’s name as Simmba Bhalerao. Simmba, like I said, is a short form for Sangram Bhalerao. Such oversights could have been avoided.

Rohit could also have used Sara Ali Khan’s name, Shagun, for a better effect. In the movie, she praises her father for his 50 encounters. Rohit could have reduced that to 49. Why? Well because just before the climax, Simmba kills Durva’s two brothers, Sadashiv and Gaurav. If he could add those two to 49, the total would be 51: a shagun for Shagun!

O’, I am so good at this.

Ranveer, as Simmba, has no hesitation on being called corrupt (quoting from Ashutosh Rana’s role of Head Constable Mohile, “waise bhi inhe khane ka bohot shauk hai”). Ranveer’s transformation from a guy with no intentions but to earn money to a guy with a purpose is covered well. The movie scores well also because Rohit has used a lot of headshots and portraits. This has brought the good acting talent of Ranveer (and later, Ajay) to the screen. As always, you will see Ajay’s eyes do the acting for him.

We conclude with a couple of comparisons:

  • In Sholay, there was “Basanti, in kutton ke samne mat nachna”. In Simmba, you have “Mere pass teen kutte hain. Do ko mein Pedigree deta hun. Aur, teesra hai tu.”
  • In past, you had countless movies that involved rape cases. In movies since the last couple of years, you see the victims getting their justice, whether it is Mom or Simmba.

We see a deciding shift in the thought process. One, the use of “kutte” and other similar words has reduced considerably. At least, the use is now softer. Two, we are truly empowering women by telling them that we stand by them. But, this also means that when television channels choose to telecast Simmba, I will watch it again.

Hakuna Matata 😊

Posted in Movie Review | Tagged ,

What the Year Brought

As I step into another year, I look back at the top 3 things 2018 brought for me:


I once said that I don’t often versify. That all changed in 2018. I wrote not one or two, but more than 15 poems this year. My favorite ones are:

Longer Conversation Threads

The year was the most responsive for me, thus far. It was so, also because it triggered conversation threads. My site was received well by the readers—thanks to you, too. I could reach out to more people, more frequently. Although the conversation topics weren’t as verticalized as that of the yesteryears, I could get more people to read my posts. This means, everything in the post, starting from the title and the topic, are adjudged by the readers, who continue only if what I write interests them. This brings me to the next item on the list.


I updated the site’s pages to improve navigation, history of updates, a log of posts, and hyperlinks. This improved the reader engagement on the post. You are more likely (than years gone by) to come across links and references. Throughout the year, I worked on the readability of posts.

With this learning, I step into the new year. 😊

Wish you, too, a happy and prosperous year ahead.

Posted in Creative Writing

Shades of Yellow

That tiny promise
Of the first gleaming Sun.
From behind everything
Through the horizon.

That rising king to the throne.
Changing hues of Orange
From amber to blonde
From bumblebee to corn.

That Tuscany artwork
Of embroidered ochre borders
And finely knitted mustard
Seeking my attention.

That shining glory,
Golden—a burning fury.
Showering its might
Dare I fight.

PC: Shambhavi’s camera roll, Instagram













That crimson ball
Through the Spring and the Fall.
Quietly appearing from behind the vine,
Breathtakingly simple for one and all.

The ages of the Sun
From honey to medallion
Of joyful colors and tone
Are, after all, second to none.
©Suyog Ketkar

Posted in Poetry

Movie in Review: Kedarnath

Any debut that lends expressions, insights, and promises alike, is a dream debut. More in my case, because this is my first movie review. Nevertheless, it has been a promising debut from the lead actor (female) of Kedarnath, Sara Ali Khan, who plays Mandakini (cutely shortened to Mukku). That’s it. I’m done.

Wait, here are the details:

We will start with the surprisingly underplaying Sushant Singh Rajput as the sober-looking Mansoor Khan—Believe me, this has nothing to do with Sara’s grandfather, Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi. So, Mansoor is from the “other” religion. He follows the footsteps of his father of helping pilgrims climb up to the Kedarnath temple. He is a genuine guy who charges a genuine fee for his efforts. He even clicks a groupfie with pilgrims after their darshan. And, manages to look fresh despite the tiring climb of 7 kilometers up the hill. Basically, he is everything that a girl looks for in a “relationship”—minus the possibly conflicting part of religion. But, we are diverting.

This movie doesn’t do justice to Sushant’s acting talent. Just that his underplaying has helped his co-star. His frequently used non-verbal dialogues (read eyes) convey thoughts more than sufficiently, while Sara’s eyes convey Mukku’s intentions equally well. Whether it is Mukku throwing away her share of tea or her sister confronting and warning Mansoor to stay away from Mukku, the actors have portrayed emotions rather well. Kedarnath is a Hindi-heavy movie, so Sara’s efforts on improving her spoken Hindi have well-paid off. It is kind of cute to watch her call her own father “Panditji”. That adds a hint of situational humor, too.

As is the case with most star kid’s debut, all actors have performed well except for the kids themselves. Coming to the acting and the cast, the patriarch pandit is played by Nitish Bharadwaj, who is as composed as ever. Pooja Gor, the stern elder sister of Sara, has acted to the point and deserves a special mention. As the mothers of Mukku and Mansoor, respectively, Sonali Sachdev and Alka Amin have brilliantly timed their tears of both joy and fear. Arun Bali, playing the chief priest of the Kedarnath temple, brings the usual sense of stability to his role. Kullu, who is the villain and the fiancé of Mukku, has been well portrayed by Nishant Dahiya. Overall, full marks for the casting.

This brings us to the story and direction. To cover the weak plot, the director has used the backdrop of the May 2013 catastrophe; yes, just like most of KJo’s melodramatic movies that hide weak plots under the carefully woven “dying with Cancer” sympathies. In Kedarnath, it is the torrential rains, landslides, and loss of life that find an immediate connection with the Indian audiences. To top it all, the protagonist doesn’t make it to the rescue helicopter—you can figure out the remaining part. Not to point out the director’s fault, a couple of things could have well been changed. For instance, the meditating Himalaya Tyagi could have lived through the sluicing downpour and subsequent floods.

Basically, there isn’t much of a “story”: a plot that’s tried and tested for just about a million times. A poor boy and a rich girl. Wait. Let me rephrase: A poor Muslim boy and a rich Hindu girl. There you go. The plot or its absence thereof lends enough space for Sara to showcase her acting, dialogue delivery, and dancing skills. I will give bonus marks to the director for weaving in micro-plots that help the movie steer along smoothly to the conclusion. We all know what happened in those floods back in May 2013. So much was lost. The good thing is, the director has covered most of the real-life encounters. The VFX work is commendable.

While the movie is banned in Uttarakhand, and certain sections of the audience believe that the movie projects politically sensitive topics, it is the acting, or the promise of it, that comes out as the winner. A fair comparison that almost everyone will draw is between Sara and Dhadak’s female lead debutante, Jhanvi Kapoor. The funny thing is, both to-be stars do playacting (overacting, as we call it). I found Sara to be relatively better at acting. Just that in Sara’s absence, any other actor could do her role, unlike in the case of some established actors like Kangna Ranaut—particularly, in the case of Tanu Weds Manu and Queen. But, that’s asking for too much a little too early.

After watching Sara’s maiden performance in Kedarnath, I can safely say that she is one of the better actors to debut in 2018. Unlike Saif Ali Khan whose debut in Parampara didn’t earn him the required momentum, Sara’s debut looks to match more to her mother’s immensely successful debut in Betaab.

Long story short, success is a team’s effort. And, so is Kedarnath, a story inspired by real-life events. Kedarnath is an account of those few occasions that make us realize how tiny and powerless we are in comparison to the might of nature. Not all is lost, though: amidst the sludge full of dirt, debris, and dead bodies, it is the memories, faith, and Kedarnath temple that continue to stay tall—both in the movie and for real.

In the end, we have two love-struck souls departed by the never-bridging gap of life and death. Speaking of debuting in Bollywood, you can’t get more Bollywood-ishly typical than this!

My rating? 2.95/5.

Posted in Movie Review | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Contribution to STC India Annual Conference 2018

Since the last few years, I have been regularly contributing to the STC India Annual Conferences.

This year though, I was loaded with work. After I gave up the co-editorship for Indus, the STC India chapter magazine, I could free up some schedule for the blog. So, I could schedule articles and posts beforehand and be more active on my blog (site).

Late November, about three days before the release of the newsletter, I received a request to write an article for this year’s Annual Conference’s newsletter. Of all the time I was given, this is what I could manage.

I am happy that my article fits well with the others. And, happier, because I could deliver within the given time. Hope you too will like reading it. 🙂

Posted in Creative Writing, Technical Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments