Carnegie Mellon University

Improving Flow with the Known-New Contract

If you write long, complex sentences, you may have tried several methods to make them more concise, perhaps condensing phrases, deleting prepositions, or even purging entire paragraphs. These methods can be useful, but the clarity of your writing also depends on how your sentences sound together rather than in isolation. Luckily, this logical flow between sentences is easier to assemble with the help of a research-backed tool: the known-new contract.

This contract, also known as the old-new contract, is an agreement between the writer and reader that known (or old) information comes at the beginning of a sentence and new information at the end. Stringing sentences together in this way can increase reader comprehension and even help you be more concise.

With these resources, you’ll learn:

  • The difference between the topic and stress positions of the sentence
  • How to adapt the known-new contract to multiple types of sentences
  • How to rewrite disorderly sentences using the known-new contract

Ready to refine your sentences? Click the link in the sidebar to view, download, and print the PDF, or to watch the video.

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