Sentence length does matter!

If there’s one saying that will always be true, it’s “quality over quantity”. This saying is very helpful in reminding us that a long sentence leads to a frustrated reader. If the reader even reads the whole thing!

The general guideline for maximum sentence length is two lines typed. This two-line standard applies to a sentence using a size 12 font. So no cheating!

Consider two things if you find a sentence that exceeds two lines:

  1. Is it too long  because you have a long title in it – for example, The University of Winnipeg Division of Continuing Education?
  2. Is it too long because you are rambling or using too many bulky phrases - for example, I am writing this letter to acknowledge a response to your letter…?

If you have a long title in your sentence, you have a bit of grace. Go ahead and move a bit into line three.

If you are rambling, edit your sentence for bulky phrases. You’ll be surprised how you can shorten the sentence just by removing unnecessary words.

You may also find the overuse of these words in long sentences:

 and, but, so, or, yet, that, which, because

At each one, ask yourself if you can stop the sentence there, or if you can continue to the next one. These words are like road signs, will you stop or roll through to the next one?

Controlling your sentence length can make a huge impact in your documents. Controlled length allows for a clear, concise message. Your reader will be thankful.

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Marie Antaya avatar

By Marie Antaya, CTDP

Author of The Eclectic Writing Series.