What's wrong with this sentence, which is the opening sentence in a recent economics article published in a top economics journal?
Public policies often yield uncertain outcomes.
It has no life: no bit of grammar or syntax or vocabulary just out of the ordinary to give it personality, to give it a spark.
Part of its dullness comes from the word "often," a hedge that undercuts what would otherwise be a sharp assertion.
But a larger part of its dullness comes from its plain style. As Steven Pinker describes plain style in The Sense of Style, "Everything is in full view and the reader needs no help in seeing anything." It doesn't take much work to understand or accept that public policies often yield uncertain outcomes.
What is needed is a distinction or refinement, something that qualifies or disrupts the plainness of the thought and, at the same time, surprises the reader.
Public policies often--some would say always--yield uncertain outcomes.
That "some would say always" is just what the sentence needs. It is the writer poking his head from behind the curtain, reminding readers that a real person is at work here and transforming the sentence from the dull to the quick.