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Shorter is Better, Really!

In sentence writing, the shorter the better.

Photographed by: Rodel Rollorata

That is, if you're writing to inform or to persuade. Like in your term paper or thesis, if you happen to be a student. Or if you're convincing people to buy something from you or through you (if you happen to be a sales agent).

Short sentences are easier to understand. They should also be easier to write. Both the writer and the reader of short sentences will not get lost in the forest of words.

Short sentences range from 3 to 20 words (without counting the articles "a," "an," and "the"). Beyond 20 is long.

A sentence of 30 words and beyond is very long. Such sentences may be acceptable in scholarly writing, for instance the ones in research journals. Actually, for rhythm and comprehensibility of your paragraphs, you should write a long sentence after two to three short ones. Your writing will be monotonous if all your sentences are short. Or all long.

There are times of the year when I get tied up with editing college theses of the students of a certain university. That's how I know for sure that many students are more interested in impressing rather than expressing by writing kilometric sentences that are repetitious and insubstantial.

The key to writing sensible and intelligent sentences is to go straight to point of whatever you are discussing. Don't be needlessly fanciful. Don't pile up too many ideas in a sentence, an overload of details that your readers may fail to understand and appreciate because the sentence makes them gasp for breath.

One to three ideas/details are good enough in one short sentence. Break down your thoughts, load them into as many sentences that you can construct and re-construct without sacrificing clarity and comprehensibility. If you yourself cannot understand the sentence, that means it needs to be rewritten several times until it's clear enough to be understood fully by someone in junior or senior high school.


Some people habitually write or speak this way:

1. I will be buying a new shirt tomorrow for a party I will be attending next week.

2. I will be going home to the province on Friday night.

Both sentences are in the so-called "future progressive tense." That means the event being talked about will be done, or will happen, in the future yet.

Grammatically there are no errors in both sentences. But don't you find them wordy and old-fashioned?

Those sentences can be simplified, shortened, and "modernized" this way:

1. I'll buy a new shirt tomorrow for a party I will attend next week.

The sentence above can be further simplified and shortened by writing: "I'll buy new shirt tomorrow for a party next week." You can safely delete "I will attend" since your going to a party is the implied reason you're getting yourself a new shirt.

2. I'll go home to the province Friday night. [Yes, it's okay to delete "on."]

The long versions of the sentences are acceptable if you really want to emphasize to the person you are writing/speaking to  the actions you are determined to do in the future. But if giving emphasis is not what you want to do, you will sound better and younger if you switch to the simple and short versions.

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