ClearTips: Edit yourself

5. Shorter Sentences

Long sentences—those of more than, say, twenty words—are often hard to read. Short sentences usually are not. Successions of long sentences are even harder to read. But broken up by the occasional short sentence, successions of long sentences are easier to read.

So it is that the appeal of every writer on style is: be brief! And so it is that the retort of every writer who lacks style is: it's not possible. Along with such corollaries as: complicated ideas call for complicated sentences. Or: short sentences lack style because they are choppy. The idea, however, is not to be brief all the time or even most of the time. The idea is to be brief unless you have a reason not to be. Even if you have a reason not to be brief, there are ways of handling a sentence that make it easier for your reader to follow what you are trying to say.

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