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How Short (or Long) Should a Sentence Be?

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When it comes to effective writing, sentence length matters. This blog will teach you how long a sentence should be.

Sentence Length is important.
It’s important to vary sentence length.
Correct Use

  • Sentences should have less than 30–40 words.
  • 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.

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.

How Short Can a Sentence Be?

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, each point can be written 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.
Quick Tip

Wordy phrases are very much a part of our everyday vocabulary and can slip into our writing. Not only can LanguageTool—your intelligent spelling and grammar checker—detect these phrases and offer alternatives, it’ll also warn you when a sentence is too long.

Varying Sentence Length

In today’s age, keeping a reader tuned into your writing can seem like an impossible feat. Varying the length of sentences in your text can help achieve this.

Your writing should have a 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 when it comes to keeping your readers engaged.
Varying sentence length can help keep your readers engaged. 
The Length of Sentences Matter

Sentence length makes all the difference. It determines whether a reader will stick with your writing and absorb what you have to say, or whether they move on to the next piece of content. When in doubt, play it safe and keep your sentences short by removing any wordy phrases and using the main points of a long sentence to break it down. But remember, it’s critical to vary sentence length. One short sentence after another can bore your reader just as much as an extremely long and complicated sentence.

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