Business Writing

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Syntax Training | Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

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March 25, 2009

Comments

Kamil Pitonak

excellent!

Iain Broome

There are lots of reasons to keep sentences short, particularly on the web where readibility and usability are extra issues. It's just a case of following plain English guidelines, which is 20 words, I think (though 30 is reasonable too!).

Iain Broome

Oops, meant to say 30 was only reasonable if it was absolutely necessary. It's the absolute maximum, I reckon.

Alfredo

The title of your post got my attention because I've recently been listening to CD's from a professor who argues for long sentences.

It turns out that the kind of long sentence that he likes is a cumulative sentence, a sentence that includes multiple free modifiers. I found it interesting that your example of a readable 30-word sentence is not only concrete but also cumulative.

I have always argued for short sentences, but I have found the idea of a cumulative sentence intriguing. So far, however, it seems to work much better with creative writing than with business writing.

Chris Wills

What is a sentence? In Ulysses (James Joyce) I believe there are two sentences over 11,000 words long. I haven't read it myself and given those sentences I doubt I ever will.
Although it is good to keep sentences short, it is also worth noting that it is good to vary sentence length. Too many short sentences in a sequence can cause discomfort. In fiction it is a technique used to show action scenes where lots of exciting things happen quickly.

Lynn

Iain, Alfredo, and Chris, thanks for your thoughtful comments. I agree with you. It's essential to make a distinction between business writing and other types of writing. Business readers typically seek information and advice rather than a great read. Their needs make a difference.

Andrew Carlssin

I'm glad you changed "recovering" to "recovering money" -- the sentence didn't make any sense to me before you did that!

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Andrew, I agree.

Lynn

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