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March 25, 2009


Kamil Pitonak


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.


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.


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.


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