The long and short of it – Your sentences, that is — Rule #22 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever


I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #22

22: Vary your sentence lengths. I tend to write short, and it’s amazing what a difference combing a couple of sentences can make.

Remember to be careful with this when you are trying to create a mood.  For instance, a string of short, choppy sentences can create tension when needed.  Overall, though, a mix of lengths in your text will bring it alive.

And while we’re here – watch those overly long sentences.  If a line is over 20 words, you may want to consider breaking that puppy up a bit.



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17 responses to “The long and short of it – Your sentences, that is — Rule #22 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

  1. Kourtney Heintz

    I love how short sentences ramp up tension. Also fragments. I have a thing for fragments.

    Great rule. It’s funny how much better things flow when you vary the length of sentences.

  2. Graded essays for 9 hrs today and boy was I wishing some of them knew how to write sentences with more than 5 words 😦 I should note they didn’t come from my class, lol!

    • Ha! Why were you grading essays for someone else’s class? — You have this problem and here my kids are getting penalized for being too creative in their writing. Funny.

  3. As always, great advice, Jennifer. I not only try to break up the length of sentences but their format as well. If I notice that all the sentences in a section look the same or similar, I will change them up a bit. 🙂

  4. I write long sentences. Shortening them is a challenge but I think I’m getting better at it.

  5. This is an area where I have definitely improved since the first drafts of my first manuscript! It takes time to develop an ear for this. Practice, practice, practice!

    • Totally. Just now I am editing a manuscript I finished a few months ago and still finding things I can tighten. The more you write, the more you read, the more your writing develops.

  6. I used to be more prone to shorter sentences but somewhere along the way I seem to have picked up some that are 30 words long. WHEN I notice, I split if possible…

  7. The long sentence — my nemesis. The English teacher in me sometimes tries to override the writer in me. When I say that to non-writers, they are confused. The English teacher in me encourages conjunctions and punctuation of long or compound sentences. But the writer in me knows that my readers will get bored with my sentence writing prowess if I abuse it. This is such a great reminder. And I had never really thought about the short, choppy sentences helping create tension — so I learned something valuable today. Sandy