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Clear And Simple Writing : Short Sentences

We owe it to our readers  to use clear and simple writing. There are way too many blogs to read, and the faster our readers get our message, the better!  Let’s not make them sift through several layers of words to understand what we are saying.

Plain English magazine thereto
(Photo credit: i_gallagher)

Keep readers focused on your message by writing short sentences. Shorter sentences tend to have more impact. I suggest that you keep sentence length to between 15-20 words.  If your sentence runs on to more than twenty words,  split and disconnect sentences.  You can do that by looking out for and removing link words like ‘and’ or ‘but’ and creating another sentence.

Before – One long sentence consisting of 52 words
In recent months, there have been a spate of attacks on policemen on night watch on the expectation that they were carrying expensive electronic equipment and hence the policemen have been advised to exercise utmost caution when visiting certain areas in the south of the city including constantly telephoning their fellow officers.

After – Three shorter sentences
In recent months, there have been a spate of attacks on policemen on night watch on the expectation that they were carrying expensive electronic equipment. The policemen have been advised to exercise utmost caution when visiting certain areas in the south of the city. This includes having to constantly telephone their fellow officers.

These three sentences too can be re-written to make them much simpler. Would you like to take a shot? Leave your response in the comments.

This was just one tip. There’s plenty more where that came from. I’ve realized that writing in Plain English is something that not everyone  is familiar with.  I have  done a fair amount of training in this area.  So today, I’m starting a short series of posts on  simple and clear writing.

I’ll be doing  one post a week on this topic.  Although I have an outline planned, your feedback will help me know where to steer this.

May you be inspired – every day!

74 Comments

  1. Emmabee Emmabee November 10, 2013

    I’m not a blogger of any kind but this really helped me out with shortening my sentences, i’m currently doing a Blended Learning course on Coursera and this is really helping me with the assessment blocks that has 150 word blocks, we have to explain each part in 150 words and it took a bit of reviewing but i successfully managed to do it, in some blocks i even typed under 150 words :D.
    Your exercise is wonderful and it even helped me to shorten my C.V, i haven’t got around to reading the entire series yet but once i am finished this Course in 2 weeks i’m going to read all of it and practice every exercise you have given us. How bloggers have always explained things so wonderfully in shorter answers has always alluded me until now!, thank you very much Corinne! you are wonderful!.

  2. ashish mittal ashish mittal May 4, 2013

    Long sentences makes your writing monotonous. Maximum looses interest.
    Short and simple writing is important for gaining marks 😛 (necessary as being a student 🙂 )
    ashish mittal recently posted..Acquaintances: are they important?My Profile

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues September 16, 2012

      We all are guilty of using long sentences from time to time, Rekha. I guess we love the sound of our own ‘voices’!

  3. Diana Pinto Diana Pinto September 15, 2012

    This series will be very interesting for beginners like me..I’ve always admired your style of writing.I’m so looking forward to it.

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues September 16, 2012

      I do hope it helps, Diana. It’s pretty basic for now. Let’s see how it goes. Thanks for the vote of confidence though.

  4. sharmila sharmila September 15, 2012

    Thank you Corinne for coming up with this series. I will be the one closely following all the posts in the series. Another area where I tend to let go is the use of ‘……..’ at the end of a sentence or even in the middle of one. It makes sense to me but I am not too sure about the readers :0
    One more area where you can throw some light is the liberal use of emoticons. I love using them . I have heard people calling them rubbish.The creator himself is not too happy with the smileys . Your take Corinne … (there I go ! ) 🙂
    sharmila recently posted..Melbourne Treasure hunt !My Profile

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues September 16, 2012

      I’ll have to make sure I deliver something of value, knowing that you are following closely, Sharmila. I too am in a habits of using those dots and have learned to clean them up in the final edit. They do seem unnecessary to the reader. Emoticons are pretty acceptable now in online casual correspondence. However, I would hold back on using too many of them in one post.
      Corinne Rodrigues recently posted..Just Married, Please Excuse: Book ReviewMy Profile

  5. Techboy Rocky Techboy Rocky September 15, 2012

    Awesome post. I love reading this as this was all about how we should write short sentences. Short sentences are easy to read for blog visitors. Our blog visitors will visit the blog again and again if they find it very easy to read our blog posts.

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues September 16, 2012

      I’m glad you agree, Rocky. I think as much as we write for ourselves, we must consider our readers too!

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues September 16, 2012

      I hope you find this useful, Bhagyashree. Incidentally, I enjoyed your latest post and found no language issues there! 🙂

  6. Amy Amy September 14, 2012

    I CONCUR!!!!

    Very well said, Corinne… I write out my thoughts exactly the way the come to me, and then during editing I clean it up; I also believe short sentences have more impact.
    Amy recently posted..Breaking SilenceMy Profile

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues September 16, 2012

      Thanks, Amy. I think we all write our thoughts as they come and then make sure they make sense to the reader! 😉

  7. Jeevan Jacob John Jeevan Jacob John September 13, 2012

    Short and sweet 😉

    I like that, always!

    I try to follow that style (not sure, how much of a success I am) – with more white spaces and shorter sentences (Complexity is great, sometimes it can be very helpful, if we are doing research papers, but we aren’t online, are we? We are just sharing information for others to use to their good. In that case, we must try our best to get the message across fast :D).

    Sure, if it is a subject of importance, an in depth analysis can be added (hence lengthy posts, but be sure to keep the sentences short, right Corinne?)
    Jeevan Jacob John recently posted..Take Risks? What’s Too “Risky”?My Profile

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues September 16, 2012

      More white spaces and shorter sentences is truly a winning formula, Jeevan. The length of your post also matters – but then you could also break that up into parts, don’t you agree?

  8. Debra Debra September 12, 2012

    Amen Corinne! Excellent advice for all bloggers and writers. <3
    Debra recently posted..House of DreamsMy Profile

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues September 12, 2012

      Thanks, Debra. I’m hoping to continue – let’s see how it works out.

  9. Zephyr Zephyr September 12, 2012

    Brevity is one of the first lessons in journalism — at least print journalism and that includes short sentences. Though like many, I tend to get carried away by long sentences. I catch them when I am editing the stuff, but some give me the slip 😀 I find words that are too hard to understand, and metaphors that are hard to decipher irritating. If we wanted literature, we would read literature, not blog posts and articles, right?

    You are featured in my lastest post, Corinne 🙂
    Zephyr recently posted..The Blog Bully — Are you a victim?My Profile

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues September 12, 2012

      You’re so right, Zephyr. If we wanted literature, we’d wouldn’t be on the internet! I think we all can get carried away, but have to stop and ask ourselves how the reader will interpret what we are saying. Editing is key. I’m sorry to say that I’m seeing too many new Indian authors not paying attention (or money!) to editing before publishing.
      I just read your recent post and am wondering how to respond. 😉

  10. Latha Latha September 12, 2012

    yayyy..finally I am able to post a comment here..:) don’t know if you changed any settings..:)

  11. Latha Latha September 12, 2012

    Loved it..waiting for more tips each week..:) Yes, short sentences are easy to follow.

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues September 12, 2012

      Thanks, Latha. I’m now excited about writing these posts knowing that people are looking forward to them. 🙂
      Corinne Rodrigues recently posted..Do You Know Marilyn?My Profile

  12. Rakesh Gurbani Rakesh Gurbani September 11, 2012

    Thanks for a very useful post. This is not just useful in writing blogs but in general communication like emails as well.

  13. Myrna Myrna September 11, 2012

    Corinne, this tip is a helpful reminder. When I started blogging, my biggest mistake was to write long posts. I didn’t write long sentences, but I now realize my posts were too long for the busy blogger. Now I try to keep it short. My poetry though, is left to interpretation by the reader. So, I guess my true message gets lost sometimes. But, I’m learning.
    Myrna recently posted..A FRIEND IN NEEDMy Profile

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues September 12, 2012

      I love the way you write, Myrna. There’s ambiguity about what your message is. Poetry is always open to interpretation and yours is always so deep and meaningful. ♥

  14. Dave M. Saha Dave M. Saha September 11, 2012

    Great post, Corinne! It is common for me to get carried away and make a sentence longer than it should be. I like to use metaphors, explanations and unnecessary words (like, so, thus, etc.) in my writing. I’m trying to get out of that habit; hopefully, I will be able to. Although, sometimes, it just doesn’t work if I split a long sentence into short sentences. Sometimes the speech is very connected, which results in three-line-long sentences.

    Thank you for the post!
    Dave M. Saha recently posted..Hate That I Love YouMy Profile

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues September 12, 2012

      It is always easy to get carried away when we’re in the flow, Dave. But I don’t agree with you – we can break long sentences into smaller and meaningful ones – it just takes a lot more effort. 🙂

  15. Gopinath Mavinkurve Gopinath Mavinkurve September 11, 2012

    “Avoid long convoluted sentences” – something we all have been advised, but need to consciously practice at all times. Whenever i have my daughter run through the text of any writeup, she usually points out these long-winding strings of words with ‘what do you want to say, really?’! To which i reply: “My sentences seem to be trying out Baba Ramdev’s asanas”. Straightening them out takes some effort, but well worth the pains, for sure!
    Gopinath Mavinkurve recently posted..My Latest Best BlogpostsMy Profile

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues September 12, 2012

      Aren’t you lucky to have your home-based editor, Gopinath! 😉 I think, “What do you really want to say?” should be a question we all ask ourselves constantly!

  16. Melissa Tandoc Melissa Tandoc September 11, 2012

    I write the way I speak. Perhaps, that could explain how short or long my sentences are and how long my posts will be 😛 I imagine without periods or commas how long I’d hold my breath reading some passages allowed. Simple but hits the heart ~ that’s how I like it.

    I also look forward to your series. Lots of love BS.
    Melissa Tandoc recently posted..Day by DayMy Profile

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues September 12, 2012

      I loved listening to your voice on your post the other day, Melissa. I’m certain you pause at the right places, too! Simple and hitting the heart – that’s what you do – every time. ♥

  17. Pranay Nigotiya Pranay Nigotiya September 11, 2012

    Hi Corinne, I think you are spot on with this post. SHORT and SIMPLE works very well with all age groups and categories of people. Also the message is sent across easily which is the main motive. I totally agree and I also try and follow this. Looking forward to reading more from you on this topic in coming weeks.
    Pranay Nigotiya recently posted..Why Should You Choose a Business Coach with Expertise in NLP?My Profile

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues September 12, 2012

      The virtues of brevity are still to be discovered in India, Pranay! I hope that the series meets the needs of some people. Do give me suggestions of topics, when you think of them. Thanks.

  18. rimly rimly September 11, 2012

    Thanks Corinne for this. It will help me with my essay lessons when I teach them in GMAT and GRE. Look forward to more
    rimly recently posted..GONEMy Profile

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues September 11, 2012

      Then I’ll have to charge you, Rimly! 😉 But seriously there must be loads of material you have access to already, right?

      • rimly rimly September 11, 2012

        I will pay you back with loads of love and good wishes for you, my friend. Actually not much notes. To be able to write in a crisp and clear manner is the art of writing good essays without using bombastic words. I have this fear of writing essays, was never good at it. And now I have to teach them!!! God help me!
        rimly recently posted..GONEMy Profile

        • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues September 12, 2012

          I think you’ve paid in advance already, Rimly! I always think that teaching is the best way of learning. If there’s anything I can help you with, do let me know. Don’t wait for the posts to ask! 🙂

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues September 15, 2012

      I find long sentences a huge turn off, Jaishree. Like you said, we have so much to read – let’s be kind to our readers! 🙂

  19. G Angela G Angela September 11, 2012

    Hai Corinne, nice to know hear ! wanting to learn, I do write long sentences, and sometimes without a break, very much needed to learn to express in a simple manner, looking forward for this series and thanks for sharing !

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues September 12, 2012

      Janet, I had to smile when I read your sentence of 33 words here! 😉

  20. Rachna Rachna September 11, 2012

    First of all, a cracking beginning to a much needed series! Most people feel that the more flowery the language the better somehow. Though, I do enjoy good language, I am not really into literature kind of confusing writing. And long sentences can really leave you confused though I must admit that I have been guilty of the same too :). I try to consciously curb that in my professional writing, but I might get carried away when I write on my blog. Recently, I read a much admired and acclaimed book that had rave reviews. But, the overdose of similes and archaic language used really drove me nuts. Maybe, I am a simpleton and desire simple storytelling :). Look forward to your next blog. You can add topics on correct punctuation, grammar, flow, length, paragraph, tone and spelling etc.
    Rachna recently posted..Make That Change!My Profile

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues September 12, 2012

      Thanks for the vote of confidence, Rachna. As much as I like Shakespeare and many writers thereafter, I do feel that on the internet and any business writing, we’ve got to keep it simple. When you know a writer is using flowery language for effect, it makes you wonder whether they have anything of substance to say or are hiding behind the ‘flowers’! 😉
      I’ve noted your suggestions – thank you!

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues September 11, 2012

      Hi Cathy, I’m looking forward to your new blog. It’s been a while since we interacted.

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues September 11, 2012

      I’m going to be ‘attacking’ the paragraphs soon, Sandra. Thank you.

  21. Martha Orlando Martha Orlando September 11, 2012

    Wonderful advice, Corinne! Short and sweet – that’s the ticket. I know this was difficult for me to master when I started blogging, but thanks to input from a good friend, I was able to do so. No turning back now! 🙂
    I’m looking forward to your series, dear friend.
    Blessings!
    Martha Orlando recently posted.."Honesty, Sincerity, Just Like it Used to be . . ."My Profile

    • Corinne Rodrigues