[Tipster] It's Time Once Again to Shorten Your SentencesJul 29, 2022
A long, ugly sentence lays on your page like I lay on the couch after one too many slices of Chicago-style, stuffed pizza.
I feel like taking a nap.
And so will your reader if you don't shorten your sentences.
I've written on this topic before: If you want to learn to write well, put your sentences on a diet.
Here are 5 good reasons:
1. Short sentences give you control over your meaning.
The moment you start to shorten your sentences, you're forced to be more specific about what you actually mean.
Short rubs your nose into the page and forces you to ask, "What is the most important element in this sentence."
And, "What do I really want to say?"
Short helps you write more crisply. More precisely.
2. Short sentences teach you how to write longer sentences.
You can always write longer sentences later, once you've mastered the short sentence.
By shortening your sentences, you learn to write better longer ones.
With a short sentence, you're back to nouns and verbs - the two most basic elements of a sentence.
You then can begin to learn how to create compound (and longer or more complex) sentences.
Short sentences gives you a strong writing foundation.
3. Short sentences help you whack unnecessary adjectives and adverbs.
This is one of the big problems with longer sentences: bloated writing.
Too many adjectives. Too many adverbs.
You should write, "The dog barked." NOT, "The dog barked loudly."
"Loudly" is a crappy adjective. Superfluous. Cut it.
And by cutting it, you've just shortened your sentence by one word.
4. Short sentences help you end your sentences more powerfully.
Yes, how you end a sentence matters.
It creates the final emotion or idea.
Does your sentence end with a dreary prepositional phrase: "The horse trotted on the pavement."
No, no, no!
Here is the better version: "On the pavement, the horse trotted."
The sentence isn't shorter, but by writing shorter sentences, you start to think about how to end your sentences.
Having "trotted" at the end creates a visual. I can see a horse trotting in my mind.
End your sentences with creative, fresh words.
5. Short sentences kill sloppy verbs.
"Death to weak verbs."
This should be your battle cry as you shorten your sentences.
The simple act of breaking one long sentence into two shorter sentences forces you to take a harder look at the verbs in each new sentence.
"The man ran slowly and then fell down, falling forward awkwardly."
"The man stumbled as he ran from the car. And then he collapsed."
Two distinct sentences. Note how the verb "collapsed" ends the second sentence.
That adds emotion and movement to the sentence.
One Final Thought
Finally, I've recommended this book before. It's a gem: Several Short Sentences about Writing
Now, buckle up and write ... crisper, shorter sentences.