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The given-to-new principle

A well-written text is developed logically so that the reader understands how a concept in one sentence is related to the concept in the next sentence. It is helpful to keep reminding readers of what has been written previously in the text, so that they do not have to keep too much information in mind while reading, and can therefore focus on new information.

Examples (1a) and (1b) represent the first draft and a re-draft of a text. Example (1a) is more difficult to read because the writer has not made clear the connection between the concepts of the first sentence (sustainable transports and rising fuel prices), and the reader must get to the end of the passage before they can grasp the whole picture. In example (1b), the paragraph has been organised differently, so that what is mentioned at the end of one sentence (bold) is picked up at the beginning of the next sentence (underlined):


The transition to more environmentally sustainable transports, in combination with the rising fuel prices, creates a demand for efficient means of transportation. This thesis proposes a simulation environment and a control method for the electronically controlled air suspension system on a four axle truck. This enables the introduction of a lifting axle that saves fuel and reduces tire wear.


To achieve a more efficient and environmentally sustainable transport sector, fuel consumption must be minimized. The amount of fuel required tends to increase with tire wear, a common problem of heavy vehicles. It has been shown that tire wear on heavy vehicles can be reduced by the means of liftable axles, which can be enabled by an electronically controlled air suspension system. However, such systems are difficult to …

This principle at work in example (1b) is called the given-to-new principle of information structure: a sentence begins with something that has already been mentioned in the text, i.e. the given information, and ends with something that is new. This new information then becomes the given information in the next sentence.

The text in example (2) also makes good use of the given-to-new principle:


District heating (DH) is defined as the process by which a heated medium is transported around a network with the aim to bring heat to those connected to it. Often this medium is water, which is heated and pumped by a heat producing plant, and is sent to the consumer to be used as building heating or to heat the hot water coming from the taps (Danfoss, 2021). Once used by the consumer, the lower temperature medium is returned to the plant through return pipes in a closed cycle, continuously cycling around the network; see Figure 1.1 (Danfoss, 2021).

Note in the examples above how the given-to-new principle often co-occurs with the use of indefinite and definite noun phrases.

  • In (1b): an electronically controlled suspension system (new) --> such systems (given).
  • In (2): a heated medium (new) --> this medium (given).

This use of articles and determiners helps create text flow. This is further explained on the next page.

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