Why do writers and bloggers struggle to write short sentences and paragraphs? It’s vital today to acknowledge demands on readers’ time – and make it brief accordingly. Writing short sentences and paragraphs the right way means better readability and more powerful statements. Consider these tips and see what happens to your content:
Write It, Then Quickly Revisit It
Write out ideas as they surface, so during a first draft let it flow regardless of brevity. However – and this is where it’s important – go right back and try to shorten each sentence. The "delete" key can be your ally. Go back and consider eliminating:
- Unnecessary words. Delete a word and read it again. If the sentence still makes sense, you were right to delete it. Try deleting the word “that” whenever possible and see if it changes anything. Do you “write down,” or “write”?
- Overload of phrases. Poor writing contains too many phrases. “In today’s world,” for instance, can be simply “Today.” Or consider this: you’re not cutting it out, you cut it. Fewer words, and even shorter words, get readers to the point faster.
- Adverb clutter. Few things bog down content more than adverbs. Do you totally or actually agree, or agree? Delete words like “actually,” “totally,” “usually” and “fairly” and your content will be shorter and clearer.
- The needless modifier. Words like “good,” “just,” “almost,” “hardly” and “simply” just modify nouns and are often superfluous.
Split Long Sentences And Paragraphs
Find sentences of 30 words or more and try to break them in two. You can be amazed at how easy this is; using a semicolon can be helpful. Same goes for paragraphs exceeding 100 words. Shorter paragraphs are easier to digest.
Why It Matters To Write Short Sentences And Paragraphs
Consider two things: competition and short attention spans. Readers have evolved accordingly. One summary says during Elizabethan times the average sentence was 45 words. They shrank to 23 words by early last century, and down to as little as 14 words today.
Studies show today’s average human attention span is eight seconds – down from just 12 seconds at the start of this century. This at a time when technology brings information to our eyes at alarming speeds. Readers have little time for the unnecessary. So many things vie for attention that short sentences and paragraphs are critical toward maintaining interest.
Keep messages clear, short and sweet, or readers won’t stick around.