We all have long sentences sometimes. It’s pretty easy to write one as you let the words flow from within you. But don’t let those long sentences slide by the editorial spyglass. They diminish your piece’s impact.
A writer’s power is measured by the number of words they can cut while keeping their sentences’ meaning, not by their word count.
Here are eight tips to help you do just that.
Lose the Extra Weight
If you have long sentences, take a good look at them. Most long sentences contain many useless words. Those don’t convey extra meaning. Removing them will make your piece more compelling.
Long: Aside from everything else mentioned, if you still can’t register for the course, contact our team to help you out.
Short: If you still can’t register for the course, contact our team.
Break It Down to Smaller Pieces
If you still need many words, don’t frame them into a long sentence. Instead, break it down to shorter sentences for easy digestion.
Long: Break the eggs down, mix them in a bowl, sprinkle some salt, and only then pour the bowl into the blender with the rest of the ingredients.
Short: Break the eggs down and mix them in a bowl. Sprinkle some salt. Only then, pour the bowl into the blender.
This tip requires you to be a bit creative. Not every long sentence could be broken down just by adding dots.
Use Shorter Words
We all want to sound smart. Avoid using long words to make your text appear like it’s better than everyone else’s.
Long: The Ambassador was an intelligent person and very knowledgable about the world.
Short: The Ambassador was intelligent and worldly.
Also, did you know there are people in the world who don’t know the word ‘worldly’? Yeah, for many words in English, you’ll find someone somewhere who is not familiar with them.
That is why reading is an integral part of being a writer.
Quote Sentences, Not Paragraphs
It’s rare to require more than one or two sentences in a quote. Quote only the sentence you need and put a link to the rest. There’s no reason to include a long quote in a story if you can link to it.
“An unedited manuscript is a first draft of story; but is not a finished product. Too many writers study the craft of writing but do not acquire the skills of an editor.”
― Michael J. Kannengieser, The Daddy Rock
Have you ever wondered how using negative words can be more complicated than using positive ones? Use positive words to describe your meaning instead of the ‘non-negation’ of them.
Long: It’s not impossible to succeed in this task.
Short: The task is possible.
Here’s another example just because this is so important.
Long: I don’t want to be anywhere near that guy.
Short: I want to stay away from him.
Like #2, this tip requires some creativity. Take the time to think about it. You’ll be surprised by how many alternatives you come up with to these kinds of sentences.
Write With Self-Esteem
A lot of young writers fear to sound too confident in their stories. Why would you? You’re the expert. You’re writing because you did the homework. It either happened to you personally, or you researched it.
There’s no place for doubt words.
Long: In my humble opinion, you should write without a preposition at the end of a sentence, don’t you think?
Short: Write without prepositions at the end of sentences.
Oh, and treat the example as a bonus tip.
Avoid repeating Yourself
Your reader is not a student in the class, trying to understand the material. There’s no need to repeat yourself more than one precise time in your story.
Long: Don’t spray the wall. Yeah, I’m talking to you. Don’t spray the wall.
Short: Don’t spray the wall. Yeah, I’m talking to you.
One Example is Enough
In the spirit of not repeating yourself, this goes for examples too.
I could have added many more examples to bloat the previous tips in case you didn’t see my meaning in the first one. I didn’t because I trust you’ll get the idea.
Well, you don’t need an example of that, so I have just one more tip for you.
Bonus: Use a Writing Tool Like Grammarly or ProWritingAid
These tools help you realize when you’re writing long sentences. But, they usually tell you to add a comma before an ‘and’ that you included somewhere.
Treat that as a warning that the sentence may be too long. The tool will not always mark it as such.
Also, don’t take these tools as professional editors. They may recognize many errors, but sometimes they make mistakes too. The best way to get a feel for your piece’s readability is to read it out loud. The parts where you get stuck are those you need to edit.
Oren Cohen Newsletter
Join the newsletter to receive the latest updates in your inbox.
Sign in or become a Oren Cohen member to join the conversation.
Just enter your email below to get a log in link.