Pay Attention to Sentence Length and Construction

You may look at the title of this post and think, DUH! I would think that too if I hadn’t seen so much writing that needs work over my thirty-some years in the writing/publishing business.

First, look at the length of your sentences.  Then, see if  your sentences are easily read.  If not, rewrite them to make them easy.   And make sure they are clear in meaning.  Readers can’t read your mind, so help them. If you don’t, they will read something else. Are you seeing how boring this has become? Each of the sentences above contains eight words.

Most writing textbooks encourage you to limit your sentences to the eight-word range because readers understand short sentences. There’s nothing wrong with writing short sentences unless short sentences are all you write. Same-length sentences are boring.

Use a variety of short, medium, and long sentences and your reader will keep reading.

Having said that, I want you to now think about the construction of your short, medium, and long sentences.

We learned early in our academic careers that sentences must have a subject, verb, and predicate,  and we should write sentences in that order.  Here are some examples: Dick ran to school. Jane played with Mary. The dog chased the cat. A man walked around the lake.

Granted, the sentence length varies (4 words, 4 words, 5 words, 6 words), but the construction is the same, which makes the writing just as boring as having the sentences all the same length.

Your primary goal in writing is to make your writing clear for the reader.  But you don’t have to use the same sentence construction to achieve that. Good writers move beyond the simple construction and employ a variety of sentence structures to create a writing masterpiece.

Sometimes you’ll begin with a introductory phrase. Other times, you’ll chose to insert a parethetical phrase in mid-sentence. And so it goes. (Did you notice I just used all three lengths?)

Here’s some homework for you. Who do you like to read? Pay attention to the sentence length and construction your favorite writers use. Then give yourself permission to use variety in your own writing. You’ll unleash your creativity and make your readers happy.

Happy writing!

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1 Response to “Pay Attention to Sentence Length and Construction”


  1. 1 David November 13, 2009 at 8:06 pm

    Very good tips! Sentence variation often helps make our writing live


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