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Style Chapter 8: Short Sentences
vandanagoyal wrote in visionindia2047
 long sentences are irritating for the reader. They are confusing and make for faltering text rather than a free flowing one. 

If the reader needs to read a sentence more than once to understand it properly,  you have lost him. Readers cannot be taken for granted.  If too much has been piled on a sentence and the mind is struggling to keep track of it, it is easy to give up.


The human mind chunks the information to remember. Just like a nine digit number is best remembered as  three units of three digits, information in a sentence also is processed by the brain in the same way. If there are too many chunks in a  sentence, average reader  will forget the beginning by the time he reaches the end of the sentence.

Long sentences are not proof of academic excellence. Sometimes the sentence is long just because writer is unable to find a suitable single word.


For example: All around people were losing jobs as a result of companies going bust as they could not honor their debts, lost investor confidence, customer loyalty and market strength and as a result had to lock their doors and cause mass unemployment in the area which in turn resulted in social problems like alcoholism and crime.. 

A revised less verbose sentence would be:  Economy was in recession and companies were going bankrupt.  Bankruptcies in the area caused massive unemployment that lead to many social problems.


Scrub your writing well to make the text more trim, smooth and powerful. Also avoid clause-heavy sentences and dangling modifiers.


Write the way you speak. Most of us converse in short, comprehensible sentences.


Writing should not be single tone. It should have modulations, pitch and rhythm just like in a speech. So the sentence length should be varied. Not all sentences need to be short. But most should be. Some sentences will have to be long, but  the risk of writing poor and unclear sentences rises with the length. You can eliminate many of the grammatical problems in writing by making sentences short.


Divide clauses and phrases into separate sentences. Check for conjunctions that may contribute to run-on sentences.


She was warned about the danger but in her youthfulness and the blindness afforded by her love, she plodded on.

Revised:  She was warned about the danger. But she was young and love blind. She plodded on.


Allow the reader to breathe. Use periods.


Sometimes a good piece of writing can be ruined by overburdened sentences


Consider the following writing in The New york Times Act of Faith By Jim Atkinson.  

It is a very honest peice of writing with trim  language and  almost conversational in style.  In the beginning, sentences make for a poetic prose with good  varied length.  But towards the end, the sentences become long, labored and complicated. Some examples from this article: 



...In my experience, there are three reasons for this: First, the process of becoming addicted to alcohol involves a kind of twisted leap of faith in itself—coming to believe that all answers and all happiness lay in one more drink—so it only stands to reason that to escape alcohol’s clutches, one must take a similar size leap in the other direction.

...It’s just that I’d never had occasion to apply my faith in this specific a way—that is to say, expecting a favorable resolution (losing the compulsion to drink) just for the asking of a favor from some unseen force.

...So I did what I was told: I put blinders on, invested my faith in a higher power and set about the grunt work of recovery—the self examination and soul searching, the forming of a clean and sober and ethical self—with the hope that sooner or later, my compulsion to drink would disappear.

©2008 VisionIndia2047