How Long Should a Sentence Be?
Sentences are usually between 15–20 words. Thirty words is a long sentence and should be considered the maximum. Short sentences can quickly and reliably relay information. However, varying sentence length is important because sentences of the same length can be monotonous and bore your reader. Long sentences are acceptable in the appropriate setting, like creative writing.
What Is the Ideal Length of a Sentence?
The average sentence length is between 15–20 words. In most cases, the shorter the sentence, the better. This is because in today’s age, many readers have shorter attention spans and want rapid information. But, there’s more to sentence length than just keeping them short. Read on to learn about why short sentences are effective, why it’s important to vary sentence length, and when it’s okay to write long sentences.
Use Short Sentences
Technically, a sentence can be just one word. For example, “yes,” “no,” and “hurry” are words that are sentences on their own. Granted, if you write just those words with no context, you’ll leave your readers confused. But a long, wordy, and winding sentence can leave your readers just as puzzled.
A golden rule of effective writing is that if you can express your message in less words, do so. Writing shorter sentences may seem easier than the alternative, but it’s actually a skill that takes practice.
I was extremely happy because I got to see my aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents, who I hadn’t seen in five years because they live in New Zealand.
I was ecstatic when I saw my family from New Zealand because I hadn’t seen them in five years.
One way to shorten sentences is to reduce wordiness:
In order to apply for the scholarship, you have to fill out all three pages.
To apply for the scholarship, you have to fill out all three pages.
Another way to make a long sentence short is by figuring out the main points. Then, rewrite each point as its own separate sentence. Similarly, if a sentence has more than one subordinate clause, it can be split up into two or more sentences:
Our professor won’t be coming to class today because she is sick and has to go see a doctor.
Our professor won’t be coming to class today. She is sick and has to go see a doctor.
However, it’s important to remember that although short sentences are direct and help you get to the point quickly, too many of them can cause a monotonous flow. We’ll elaborate below.
Why Should Writers Alternate Between Short and Long Sentences?
Varying sentence length can help keep your audience focused on your writing because it adds rhythm. Sentences of the same length create a boring tune. Instead, mix up the number of words in your sentence and watch how your readers will enjoy the tempo of your writing.
That being said, a long sentence is okay in the appropriate setting. For example, if you’re writing a creative work, not only is a long sentence acceptable, but they’re necessary to create a desired effect, like drama or suspense. Keep in mind that when writing long sentences, commas and other punctuations, like em dashes, can help improve readability.
Sentence Length Matters
Knowing how to write good, well-constructed sentences is one of the foundations of being a good writer, along with proper word choice and correct grammar. LanguageTool—a multilingual writing assistant—ensures your writing is flawless by correcting several different types of errors.
Going beyond proofreading, LanguageTool also makes stylistic suggestions—like recommending shortening a sentence if it is too long.
Becoming a proficient writer has never been so easy. Try it out yourself: