8

I'm writing a technical book (step-by-step sort of book) and noticed that all my summaries start with 'In this chapter we ...'. What would be some other sentence starters that I could use to make the summaries more interesting?

  • 2
    You're trying to avoid metadiscourse, or get different ideas for it. Pinker's A Sense of Style shows how it's avoidable. – J.G. Jan 30 at 23:25
8
  • "Now it's time to talk about..."
  • "Next we will cover..."
  • "We talked about..."

However, I would suggest that such variation may be unnecessary, especially in a technical context. Consistency and repetition can help with clarity; if you always start with "In this chapter we...", then your readers will be familiar with that phrase. By using the same phrases and structures for the same purpose, over the course of the book you'll set up an expectation on the reader's part about how to read a chapter summary.

  • 4
    I agree consistency is actually good in a "how-to" book... – ashleylee Jan 30 at 22:08
  • 1
    I believe you mean "set up an expectation", not "set up an exception". I second the notion that repetition doesn't hurt. – Amadeus-Reinstate-Monica May 9 at 11:07
2

I imagine that there is a broader issue with the style of such summaries. I'd suggest reading abstracts from articles on the subject. The journal typically imposes a strict limit on the number of words. You may notice that the style is typically extremely terse, with very precise language and devoid of any unnecessary language.

In your specific case, I give you some suggestions on how to change the sentence "in this chapter we present the methods to hammer a nail":

  • straight to the point: "hammering a nail can be achieved by..."
  • name the topic: "Hammering a nail. Various techniques include..."
  • justify the topic: "Wood structures can be held together by nails. Hammering is a widespread technique to place nails. This can be achieved by..."
  • the click bait lesson "The hammer trick. Place a nail on the board and hit it repeatedly."
2

In my documentation I tend to use a "sentence starter" such as "The following topics describe..." for topics that wrap subtopics that might be considered reference material, and (borrowing from section III 10 of The Elements of Style here) an "opening sentence that simply indicates by its subject with what the following topics are to be principally concerned." Essentially, this means that you simply start writing the material and introduce it that way.

Over time as I have developed more material that primarily lives online, I tend to use the latter because online documentation systems tend to have a table of contents (TOC) built into it that is always visible. In that case, you do not need to write a listing into the parent topic because the TOC does the work for you. You can see what the chapter contains by simply glancing at the TOC. In converting older publications to this format, I notice that I end up removing a lot of this kind of material. On the other hand, if you are publishing a printed book, a listing can be very useful.

0

Depending on what you're writing, a simple heading of Summary: followed by your text could be sufficient.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.