Writer’s Wednesday: The Long and Short of It

Somewhere along the way, I’m sure you heard the adage, “Vary the lengths of your sentences.”

Good advice, that. It holds true for sentences, paragraphs, chapters — any arbitrary stopping point in writing.

Why?  Because it takes conscientious manipulation of words on the page to make them visually and mentally appealing to your readers.

Here’s an analogy. If you were driving down a country road, a highway surrounded on either side with identical trees and bushes, with the same unchanging flat landscape, with no other interruptions to greet you or pass by in a very long while, what would your mind begin to do?

That’s right. Your attention would drift. Your brain would fatigue. Because the monotony of what’s ahead is just too boring to stay engaged. (Did you notice how your mind reacted to the L-O-N-G sentence above?)

I’ll go further.  Lesson #4: Long sentences/paragraphs/chapters require much more effort to read. so be wary of using them. Especially of placing one after another, after another.

There are exceptions, of course.  If you write complicated thoughts needing explanation and the format you’re using is one of a technical nature, then long sentences/paragraphs/chapters may make perfect sense for you. By all means, employ those long sentences.

Or if you write fiction and you wish to lull your reader into a deadly stupor before you interject some excitement in your story, then go for it. This is a plotting technique known as pacing.

However, if you are writing a general blog post, or an article on a more mundane level, you’re better off with this next suggestion. Lesson #5: Keep a goodly portion of sentences/paragraphs/chapters short and your reader will appreciate it.

Hands down, two clear short sentences beat a long, unwieldy one every time. (Not that you can’t slip a long one in there every so often, just to mix things up!)

In the same vein, look for logical places to break up those long blocks of black text. Bust it up! Shorter paragraphs translate into more “white space,” which is easier on the eye. Give your readers plenty of white space (within reason), and they’ll love you for it.

Next week, Lesson #6: Two adjectives are not better than one.

Happy writing!

Lookin’ up,