Dun Writin’—Now Whut? A series by Susan Uttendorfsky – Owner of Adirondack Editing – (31 Sentence Length)

susan-uttendorfsky-logo21

Sentence Length

There is no standard sentence length, but it’s still an important factor to consider when revising or editing your manuscript. A sentence can be as short as one word: “What?” On the other end, there are whole books written in one sentence only. Apparently, the current verified world record holder for the longest sentence is Jonathan Coe’s The Rotters Club, published in 2001, contains a sentence with 13,955 words.I don’t recommend this.

According to the blog “Readability Monitor”, “  Based on several studies, press associations in the USA have laid down a readability table. Their survey shows readers find sentences of 8 words or less very easy to read; 11 words, easy; 14 words fairly easy; 17 words standard; 21 words fairly difficult; 25 words difficult and 29 words or more, very difficult.” Since an author’s first goal is clarity and understandability, you would naturally want to aim for an easily understood sentence. There are times when a longer sentence is called for. This is generally in descriptive narrative passages. In literary works, it is not unusual for one sentence to make up a whole paragraph.

Action scenes, on the other hand, lend themselves to short, quick sentences. Shorter sentences speed up the pacing and increase the tension of such scenes. Longer sentences slow down the pace and ease the tension of a passage. Note how these two action scenes read differently with varying lengths of sentences; first long, then shorter.

  • Evan struggled in Ammon’s grasp, striving to break free in order to return the punch he had just received. He twisted abruptly to the left, successfully disengaging and kicking Ammon in the shins as he spun around. Ammon was unimpressed with the kick and grinned evilly, steadying his gait and raising his fists, his eyes glinting maliciously in the heat of the fight. Evan knew he was going to lose this one, as there was no way he could match the other man’s hatred.

  • Evan struggled in Ammon’s grasp. Striving to break free, he wanted to return the punch. He twisted abruptly to the left, successfully disengaging. He kicked Ammon in the shins as he spun. Ammon was unimpressed. He grinned evilly, steadying his gait and raising his fists. His eyes glinted maliciously. Evan knew he was going to lose. There was no way he could match the other man’s hatred.

While there is more detail in the first passage, a fight scene isn’t the place for a lot of detail. It’s the place for action, tension, and suspense. Short, tight sentences accomplish that well. The second passage could probably be tightened up even more.

We’re Dun for today, so keep on Writin’!

Susan

Susan Uttendorfsky

Owner, Adirondack Editing

LinkedIn

Facebook

 

Advertisements

21 thoughts on “Dun Writin’—Now Whut? A series by Susan Uttendorfsky – Owner of Adirondack Editing – (31 Sentence Length)

  1. When I started in journalism, the house rule was between 12 and 20 words for an intro, the shorter ones having more impact. Anything more than 20 invariably attracted criticism and demolition.

    Not sure about the two fight scenes, I actually enjoyed the first one. I think it would depend on the style of the book, it would look odd to suddenly change writing style from longer descriptive sentences, to short active ones.

    Yes, the second par could be edited more tightly to cut out more words, if that was desired.

    Liked by 1 person

DON'T BE SHY - LEAVE A REPLY

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s