Are You Longwinded?

A question that’s often asked is: How long should my sentences be?

A lot depends on what type of material you are writing.

Academic materials tend to contain a lot of long sentences.  This is due either to the complexity of the subject or the laziness of the writers to find a way to use shorter sentences. Shorter sentences are easier to read and understand. So why not use them.

But if you like long complex sentences for some reason,  you should use Bob Bly”s test for sentence length.  Read the sentence aloud and if you run out of breath before the end, the sentence is too long and should be broken up into at least two sentences.

Long paragraphs are another symptom of long-windedness. Pages with few paragraphs are difficult to read. How can you tell if a paragraph is too long.  If it contains more than one idea it is too long.

Another test of paragraph length is the squint test. Squint your eyes and look at the page.  If it looks like on black mass, the paragraphs are too long.  If it looks like a set of railroad ties the paragraphs are about the right length.


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