Monday, October 12, 2009

RULE NO. 5: KEEP YOUR SENTENCES SHORT








English sentences are getting shorter and shorter. In the Seventeenth Century, sentences averaged about 45 words. By the Nineteenth Century, the average had shrunk to about 30 words. Today, the average is less than 20 words. That is the average for written material that reaches a large audience: newspapers, magazines, and best-sellers. These are written in the kind of sentences people like to read. In fact, people pay hard-earned money for the opportunity. Unfortunately, too many executives and reporters have not yet whittled sentence length down to size. They are still about a century behind times. The logic of writing sentences is obvious. Readers absorb the idea faster. The longer the sentence, the more the words. The more the words, the more the relationships. The more the relationships, the more effort for the reader. The more chance he will misunderstand, the sooner he will quit reading.

People do not like to read material made up of 40-word sentences, even if they get it for free. Reading tends to become hard when sentences exceed 20 words. Sentence length has been measured and tested. We know today what average people read with ease, and what sentence length will fit an audience with a given reading skill.

Average sentence length in words:

So keep your sentences short. Sprinkle periods or semicolons liberally over what you are writing. Keep the average length of your sentence below 20 words. With 15 word sentences, you can write on nearly any subject in this world or the next. This paragraph comes from an office memo: “Should the supply of gasoline sent to your establishment prove insufficient to meet the demand, application should be made to this office for an additional quantity.”

This 25-word sentence could be revised to read: “If you need more gasoline, ask us.”

Note that we are talking about averages. There is nothing wrong with a 40-word sentence, or even a 60-word sentence, now and then. But balance these long sentences with some short ones of five or ten words, to keep the average length to 15 words.

41 comments:

Annicalou Tañaquin said...

Today, we live an all instant life. If you write in a paper and you have a long boring sentence, your readers will also get bored. They will just skip that sentence or eventually just leave the paper and not read it anymore. People nowadays are picky. They want everything to be easy. However, if you use short sentences all through out the context, they will think that you are not that intelligent. So, you just need to balance the number of words in your sentences to satisfy your readers needs.

Mark Brian Dastas said...

Too long sentences might let the readers think that the article is boring and dismiss it and look for other more interesting articles. But I am not saying that you should use simple sentences only then the outcome will be more dull than using complex and compound-complex sentences. Just remember to use sparingly to achieve clearness in conveying your message to the readers.

Ryll Regine P. Santos said...

Keeping your sentences short is a good thing because you will not bore your readers and you will have a clear message to them. The longer your sentence is, the more complicated your paragraphs get. The ability to write a 20-long word paragraph is considered a gift. Even professional writers still do not know how to write an effective sentence. Sometimes, they forget that having along sentence means getting far away to the point and getting your readers confused. So, try to keep your sentences short.

Monica Louise Aguiles Inonog said...

Making your sentences short leads to another rule that is very important, "Shorten your paragraph". The shorter your sentences are the shorter your paragraphs. Short paragraphs can attract more reader than those with long paragraphs. Especially those reader in a rush, even though the topic is nice, they will just leave it because they are too long.

Jasper Hannah Castro said...

I remember reading a sentence so long that I almost literally fell asleep before finishing it. This sentence was in a fictional fantasy novel though, so it's not the worst case. The worst case is finding yourself tangled in a long sentence in a newspaper which would make the article a lost cause. Plus, like the last one, long sentences are a wast of ink and brain cells.

Maria Ericka T. Duran said...

Why bother write a novel-like paragraph and get your readers confused when you can compress it into at most 20-word sentence? We must remember the saying, "the customer is always right." This time the readers are our customers. In any ways we can make their lives easier, we do it! Remember to keep your sentences short.

Marielle Gaminde said...

Having lengthy sentences causes confusion because the reader finds it hard to spot the real sense and subject in the sentence. Shorter sentences provides the reader an easy understanding of the article, thus making him focused on what he is reading. Shorter sentences deliberately establishes a reader-writer connection wherein the reader really finishes what he read and is able to understand it.

Johannes Kristoff R. Vito said...

Having short sentences will result to short paragraphs, short paragraphs will result to short articles, and short articles will result to less boredom that you will bring to readers. It is very important to make your sentences concise. I myself enjoy reading short articles.

Leonell Elimanco Banaag said...

Bigger is not always better. In journalistic writing, the longer the sentences, the more boring and tiring it is to read. If you want your article to be read by many, make sure it is not boring. Actually, as far as I'm concerned, I'm just restating what the others said. So in other words, we have the same idea about Rule No. 5. Just keep short. The reaped readers will be big.

Beren Ladislao Bello said...

Long sentences are an eye sore. If a sentence is long with all its conjunctions, I will get bored and will not finish the whole article. Long sentences are hard to comprehend. Remember, journalism is all about communication with the readers. Shorter sentences attracts the interest of readers.
Just keep your sentences short.

Gieanne Mojica Malimban said...

Following the first four rules, you will end up also following this fifth rule. Long sentences could even lead you of going away from your topic, so why waste your time prolonging it if you could just compile everything you want to say in a short one.

Dhalaine G Bautista said...

Short sentences makes your article easier to read and understand. No one is fond of reading long sentences that seem endless. Keeping your sentences short would allow a clean flow of ideas and a sensible article.

Sharmaine Barrios said...

Time is gold. One thing writers should keep in their minds. We wouldn't want our readers to read something that would take them about 10 minutes when it could be shortened to 10 seconds right?

Kishishita Kaye Ricachonda Daria said...

Journalistic writing doesn't have to be long and sounds good to the ears.
We could absolutely help the readers if our work is shorter. The shorter the sentences are, the clearer it will be.

Nolan Redji Duka Domingo said...

Sentences in our articles should only be short. Avoid using long sentences because they are harder to understand compared to shorter ones. You don’t need to use long sentences to explain what you need to tell the readers. You could delete unnecessary words and simplify sentences. All of these would ultimately result to a shorter and clearer article. Long sentences tend to discourage readers to continue on writing on your work. So what use is your article if they weren’t even read by the readers? Keep you sentences short and surely the readers would be able to understand and appreciate your work more.

Precious Irish Pasia Genosa said...

This rule also follows the Get to the Point rule. Why use long sentences if you can use short sentences? Readers nowadays want to be instant. They want an article to inform them straightly. So remember, KEEP YOUR SENTENCES SHORT

Maria Patricia Caluag De Mesa said...

Long sentences are harder to understand than short sentences. Like complex sentences, long sentences are somehow confusing. They are confusing in a way that there are two many words and might have dangling modifiers. So, if possible, make your sentences short in able to achieve clarity.

Hanna Carlos said...

People are not interested in reading too much sentences whatsoever. Sentences should be shorten as much as possible. It is really a good thing for a writer to be able to say ‘a lot’ using short sentences.

Lorgiebert D Aguelo said...

Like what i said in rule number 4, you don't need to make your articles long. It is better if it is short. The readers will get bored and will not continue reading if we make our sentences long.

Sean Paulino said...

Your sentences are the ones that make up your composition. It is best to follow rule no. 5 in writing. When we follow rule no. 5 we get to make short but concise sentences.

Mark Ephraim Gonzales Acyatan said...

This rule is in relation to the 4th rule. When you are able to omit the verbal deadwood, you would be able to shorten your sentences. Not all long sentences are effective ones, and sometimes the short ones give more information than the long ones. Long sentence after long sentence in an article tends to bore many people nowadays.
Letting our readers read short sentences is only one of the many gifts that we can give them. Not only that we won’t let them suffer reading such long sentences, but also let them comprehend every word we wrote.

Marla Villa said...

Keep your sentences short. It means making your article more interesting. A sentence loose it’s meaning when it is too long. That’s why we should keep our sentences short.

Cristy Carino Calipay said...

We must keep our sentences short so the reader would understand it easily.Too long paragraphs bored the reader and thus ignoring our work.And using a lot of words loose the main context of the article.

Adriel Dominic Caluag said...

All you have to do is follow the previous rules, and your sentences will have considerably shortened. Yet there is still some more "pruning" to be done. Yes, the sentences have to be short, but keep in mind that the keyword is average, in order to make the paragraphs a bit interesting.

Cedydan Salen said...

Students like us dont want load of work right? So why keep your sentence long if you can make it short? It will make your life much easier thus it will make your work better and it will save space.

Gerald Ramos Caalam said...

Journalists aim to inform readers by the use of simple and powerful words, but not flowery words that make it a confusing one to read. We should always bear in mind that shorter sentences have a huge impact on readers because they tend to be lazy if they see long sentences in an article.

Maylene Librando Manzano said...

In journalistic writing, we do not need to use long sentences.This rule is actually the application of the other rules mentioned. Writing shorter sentences even makes readers read your article. People prefer shorter sentences to long ones. And shorter sentences are clearer to understand compared to long sentences.

Maria Sariah Moriancumer Arduo said...

People seldom even try to read sentences where they can’t seem to find the period. There are laws stated in the attention span of man and it would help you as a writer if you knew them. However, as you read this particular rule, remember that we are talking on averages. Always remember, keep your sentences short and your paycheck won’t be so slow in coming.

Leo Amadeus Gerella Ruiz said...

Leo Amadeus Gerella Ruiz

Keeping sentences short means keeping paragraphs short. Keeping paragraphs short means keeping articles short. Ísn't it better in a way that it will be more economical?

Jed Adriel Lobo Berenguer said...

Hundreds of years ago, sentences from literary works of notable writers were lengthy. As I read some of these, I found it hard to understand. But now, average sentences are much shorter. And we should follow this standard if we want to keep our readers. Long sentences do not indicate intellectuality, they may actually show insecurity. So it is really best to keep your sentences short.

Kathreene Joyce Ordoña Dadero said...

Short sentences are not signs of lack of intellectuality. Though you must use long sentences once in a while, you must find it possible to use shorter sentences. This helps gain readers’ interest.

John Kenneth Laureto Mariano said...

Short sentences are easier to understand than longer ones. Sentences with too much numbers of words may confuse our readers of what the sentence is really about. Long sentences could be chopped into shorter sentences to avoid mixing of thoughts in a clause. In journalism, short yet brief and very informative are useful in our works.

Ma Inna Paulina Egamino Palana said...

Ma Inna Paulina Egamino Palana
IV - Enrico Fermi
Fe-15

For me, every time I can see a paper that has long writings in it, an idea pops eventually in my mind saying: “I don’t want to read. Therefore, I will not read.” Long paragraphs also make an article boring. Like what Marielle Gaminde said, “It also gives confusion because the reader finds it hard to spot the real sense and subject in the sentence.” I also agree with Johannes. Every article that is short makes the reader eager to read.

Mark Marco Ungson said...

We now live in a fast paced world and that is why it is important to keep up with our readers. The use of short but insightful sentences will make your reader like and understand the written material. Shorter sentences should be used in writing journalsitic articles for they are easier to digest than long ones.

Hidemi Lansang Miyazawa said...

I personaly have a difficulty with thisrule. It's because i have so many things to say in just one sentence that makes my sentences long. i myself think that this confuses the readers. Sometimes it even confuses me. So upon learning this rule i have practiced to make my sentences short in order for my article to be understood.

Francis Justine Mariano Malban said...

Long sentences are harder to understand, so we should use shorten them as mush as possible. But, in making compositions, we should not use short sentences on our entire paragraphs because it will make our composition monotonous. But still, we should remember that shorter sentences will lessen the chances of our readers of being confused.

Alvin Kae Ledesma Cabato said...

Like Kenneth Mariano states, It is better to have sentences in a shorter version. 10 words could complete what you want to say or even less. By having the doer(Subject), What he did (Verb), and the object/s involved (Object), It is better to read it as the message is already told explicitly to a bunch of simple words.

Alen Auric Subang Santos said...

Longer sentences will just make your life harder. Just like Rule No. 4, it does not make you seem more intellectual. And of course, writing shorter sentences will mean less time to make an article. Who wouldn't want extra time?

Cristina Albert Abaloyan said...

Keeping our sentences short would make people continue what they are reading. This will make them not bored in reading. We must learn to keep our sentences short to make sure that readers will finish reading.

Ma. Antonette Furo Furio said...

I, myself, don't want to read lengthy sentences. For me, they look much dull and boring. And I think almost everyone thinks of the same thing. Always try to state your ideas in the simplest and shortest way possible.

Mark Vincent Sarmiento Valmadrid said...

Space and time are very important elements of a journalistic writing. So, better not think of ways that will make your article longer if you can write it in a simpler way. You have to make every sentence inform for your article to be concise and for your readers to understand your idea.

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