What's the most important idea in the following sentence?
"In order to increase our sales, we must become more active online as well as maintain our traditional print catalog business and continue our direct-marketing campaign, which is exactly what our internal review concluded."
Answer? Only the writer knows for sure. But what if I told you that the most important idea was maintaining the print catalog business? Would you have ever guessed that?
Probably not, given the structure of the sentence. Why is that?
George Gopen, in Expectations: Teaching Writing from the Reader's Perspective, explains that ideas in a sentence receive their greatest emphasis if they appear before a colon, semi-colon, or period--places of what Gopen calls full syntactic closure.
In the sentence above, the reference to maintaining the print catalog business is buried in the middle of the sentence, far away from the sentence's only place of full syntactic closure, which is before the period at the end. So let's revise the sentence to put the most important idea there. We get something like this:
"In order to increase our sales, we must, exactly as our internal review concluded, not only continue our direct-marketing campaign and become more active online, but also maintain our traditional print catalog business."
With the most important idea now at a place of full syntactic closure, the writer stands a much better chance of communicating successfully with his readers.