Writing Wednesdays is a series on writing tips and tricks that are published on Wednesdays. Not necessarily every Wednesday. But Wednesdays.
Here’s a great way to make writing come alive: use a mix of long and short sentences.
I find that it works for almost any subject or content type. Even “dry” topics, like enterprise resource planning software, cloud computing, and satellite communications technology.
- Short sentences (or single words) are good for emphasis or finality. But not too many together, or your sentences will read in a choppy manner, like a series of staccatos.
- Long sentences are good for elaboration and if you want to be descriptive. But not too many together, or the reader will get lost in the continuous flow of words.
This is best illustrated with a passage, and there’s no more suitable passage than this gem from Gary Provost, in his book 100 Ways to Improve Your Writing:
This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together are monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of drums, the crash of cymbals–sounds that say listen to this, it is important.
That, is how you breathe life into flat writing, and turn it into music. Just play around with the sentence rhythm!
Image source: Lum3n.com @ Pexels