Wordy workshops // The long and short of it: varying sentence length and structure for fluency and impact
Variety is the spice of life, and that old cliché remains true whether you’re thinking of places, foods, or sentences. Yes, even sentences. You might think that a sentence is a sentence is a sentence, and no amount of paprika, cumin or cardamom can change it. And you’d be right, in a literal sense. But do you know how many different types of sentences are roaming around out there, in the wild? And the incredible difference they can make to your writing if you develop an ear for them? There’s the minor sentence. Stark. Bold. Impactful. Then there’s the simple sentence. It’s a classic. Simple sentences are the bread and butter of prose. We couldn’t do without them. And of course, there is also the compound sentence. It’s longer and includes more than one idea. It punches with one fist, and then the other. It rises and it falls. And finally, because writing sometimes needs you to sit down and pay attention, there is the complex sentence. A complex sentence takes its time when you’re ready for some focussed explanation or description. It joins together different ideas to express them through relational structures. Too many complex sentences, though, and they can become the verbal equivalent of an Ambien and a warm blanket. Go easy.When we read, it’s not just about seeing the words on the page, but hearing them in our minds. So, rhythm matters. Sentence length matters. Sentence type also matters. The sound of your sentences can either bury your words like fungus in the woodland, or hold them up to the light like a twinkling jewel. Keep things varied. Keep your reader listening. Spice up your sentences.
Becky KleanthousFreelance writer UK / writer for hire
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