[Writing Tips] The short sentence is your friend

I am easily bored. This is as applicable to reading as to many other things. One thing that will get me to drop a book is an overuse of long, laboured, difficult sentences.
I am not terrified of big words. Smartphones help – as does voice search.
I am not terrified of big emotions. I like it if my writers make me think, and react.

Big, confusing sentences are a whole different matter. I do not read a book to solve a puzzle in every damn line. I like playing chess. I like playing scrabble. I do not enjoy feeling like a chess player while reading a book.

To writing now. If you are a literary writer, or write stream-of consciousness stuff, then this piece is not for you**. But if you are a storyteller like me, I would strongly recommend keeping your sentences small.

Each sentence should convey one message. Or if you are joining two sentences together, then each part of the combined sentence should have one message each. Don’t join three sentences together.

It affects the flow of your story. Many a great chapter has been lost due to difficult sentence formations. Don’t obfuscate. Don’t make it difficult for your reader to figure out what you are trying to say. They have given you their money and their time, they don’t deserve to be confused.

Question: How can I keep this in mind when I am writing? When I am in the flow?
Answer: There are two parts to my answer. A) You don’t have to. Catch these flaws while you edit. Re-write. Keep this basic principle in mind. One sentence – one message. One connected sentence – one message in each link. Never more than two links in a sentence. B) You get better at it as you write more. Practice makes perfect.

And if I make this mistake (I often do), remind me.



** Why? Because in those cases, your reader starts with the expectation that it might not be an easy read. When you know that it’s a chess-party, you don’t dread the chess. If you do, you don’t buy the ticket.

About Shom

Shom Biswas is a writer from India. @Spinstripe
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