Tuesday Tip: Shorten Your Sentences

Tuesday tips is a category of posts here at Writerly Life that promises to offer concrete tips for improving or kickstarting your writing. The tips that fall into this category are the sorts that you can do today or even right now.

This week’s tip:

Shorten Your Sentences

When my writing is at its sloppiest, the funny thing is that my sentences get longer and longer. It’s a bad habit of mine; it actually takes less thought and effort to write a wordy, clunky, and ultimately dull sentence than it takes to write a short, punchy one. Have you seen your sentences start to creep across the page as you get more tired or if you’re out of practice? We have the urge to be loquacious, and it does our work absolutely no good.

There is a solution, though; we just have to rein it in and chop it up. Today, go through the last long, wordy, abstract paragraph you wrote and cut it in half. Cut out the adverbs. Cut out the nested clauses. Give the reader more powerful verbs. Avoid the verb “to be.” Avoid little words like “of”, “the”, or “into.” Re-phrase the sentence so that fewer small filler words have to be used.

There’s always a way to shorten a sentence. Once you have, you’ll notice that your sentences will pack more of a punch. They will feel more directly connected to the emotion you’re trying to access. They will deliver your reader right into the arms of your story.

One comment

  1. BLH, excellent advice, especially timely as my editor returned my latest novel with several passages commented “long sentence.” Still, all short sentences isn’t the answer either, and it behooves us to pay attention to when shorter is better and when it’s all right to go a little longer.

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