Short and simple sentencesPosted January 5th, 2009 by David Hamill
When you’re writing for the web, try to keep your sentences under 20 words in length. Your content will be easier to read this way. This is because it’s easier to read a few short sentences than it is to read one big one.
Write a long sentence first
It’s often quicker and easier to write the sentence as you normally would and then change it after you’ve finished. Look for commas, semi colons and instances of the word “which” as opportunities to begin a new sentence.
You will rarely need to use more than one or two commas in a sentence. Have a go at splitting your sentence in two if you find you’ve got more than two commas in it. You might need to reword it a little.
It’s not always possible
Sometimes your sentence will need to be longer than 20 words. If so that’s fine. As long as you’re trying to keep your sentences short then you’ll be making a big difference.
Do this so as to not write badly
When people try to sound intellectual, they often use the term “as to” when something like “of” would be better. Using “as to” often complicates the sentence unnecessarily. It’s not just an extra word that’s the problem. An extra word won’t make a massive difference. The problem is caused by the extra thought required to translate the sentence back into plain English. Here’s an example:
The results should be clearly structured with a relevant title and also a brief description as to what is contained in the listing…
Yes very clever, but the following sentence is easier to read:
The results should be clearly structured with a relevant title and a brief description of what is contained in the listing…
All I did was remove the word “also” and replaced “as to” for “of”. I haven’t dumbed this sentence down at all. I just made it easier to read and understand.
Favour simple over short
Don’t make your sentences complicated just so that you can lose a few words. A long simple sentence will often be easier to read than a shorter complex one.
Did you find this useful?
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