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I have made this sentence:

To determine the ending point of this context, we can select the parent node if it encloses the results section, otherwise we should specify another anchor which identifies the ending point of the context or have a common ancestor with the first anchor which encloses the section.

I think it may be too long. How would you shorten such sentence?

  • Is the reader creating the anchors? Or just choosing from anchors that already exist? If the anchors already exist, the sentence is nonsensical. It says: "To determine the ending point of this context… [we can] specify another anchor which identifies the endpoint of the context or…." It never actually explains how to decide which anchor identifies the ending point of a context. – Jasper Sep 6 '15 at 6:29
  • @Jasper However that is an old revision, but to answer you, yes the reader identifies some anchors on a page – Ahmad Sep 6 '15 at 10:14
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To determine the ending point of this context, we can select the parent node if it encloses the results section, otherwise we should specify another anchor which identifies the ending point of the context or have a common ancestor with the first anchor which encloses the section.

We must determine the ending point of the context. To do so, we can select the parent node if it encloses the results section; if it does not, we must specify another anchor which identifies the ending point of the context.

Your sentence goes off the track (or at least it gets unclear) with "or have a common ancestor...". "Have" might be in the wrong number. It might need to be "has". Is the subject "we" or is the subject "another anchor"?

In light of your reply in the comments:

...specify another anchor. This anchor must identify the ending point of the context, or it must have a common ancestor with the first anchor that encloses the section.

  • Thank you, yes it must be "has", the subject is "another anchor". Then your suggestion is to use short and simple sentences to convey the same meaning. – Ahmad Jun 20 '15 at 11:39
  • Yes. Break the long sentence up into smaller sentences, and make your transitions clear. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jun 20 '15 at 11:46
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The only place to put a period would be before otherwise then start a new sentence. Adding some commas in the second sentence would help too:

To determine the ending point of this context, we can select the parent node if it encloses the results section.
Otherwise, we should specify another anchor which identifies the ending point of the context, or have a common ancestor with the first anchor which encloses the section.

  • Thank you! Can 'Otherwise' always be separated as a new sentence or there should be a condition to do that? – Ahmad Jun 20 '15 at 6:51
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Original:

To determine the ending point of this context, we can select the parent node if it encloses the results section, otherwise we should specify another anchor which identifies the ending point of the context or have a common ancestor with the first anchor which encloses the section.

Revised:

To mark the target text, we select a node that encloses the text. In some cases, we have to specify the end of the text explicitly by selecting another node which is a child or a descendant of the first node.

The lengths of the two versions are not different by much, but you may find that it's easier to read after being revised. This doesn't mean that you should revise it like this. (Because you may have to rewrite the whole manuscript to maintain the same vocabulary, usage, and style throughout the document.)

That being said, my main point is that (particularly in technical writing): being short or long is not as important as clarity.

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