When you want your reader to keep reading, you must make sure to keep them interested in each piece you place on the page. You need them to stay.
How can you do that?
Some people will just write diligently. They write clear sentences. They do not contrast much. Each has the same length. And then it become monotonous. Just like this paragraph.
On the other hand, the skilled writers of excellent paragraphs know enough to change things like sentence length. Some sentences are short. Others are long. (Even fragmentary, to add more interest.) The whole point is to vary their lengths so that the reader stays engaged the whole time. Like in this paragraph. The reader must keep truly reading, keep using their minds, which keeps them engaged!
See (and feel) the difference in the paragraphs?
The sentence rhythm created by the variety in sentence length is important, but it is easy to fall into a pattern of using the same length over and over again. Your writing needs some short, some medium, and some longer sentences. Most sentences should be medium length. Don’t overdo the contrast.
Here are some great ways to make sure you are using different lengths:
1. Read aloud, and see when you have to breath. If you run out of breath during every sentence, they're all too long. If you can get through a few sentences without breathing, they're all short. Look for a mix.
2. Have someone read your piece aloud to you. You will notice more if you are getting distracted, even during your own words.
This is my favorite way!
- An average sentence length below 14 words per sentence may indicate that you use too many short sentences and you need to learn how to combine ideas.
- If your average sentence length is well above 22 words a sentence, you may have a prose style that is dense and tangled.
- If your average word length falls between 14 and 22, you simply need to check your sentences to see if there is some variety or if they are all about the same length.
From there, work to make sure the rhythm of short or long matches the moment. You'll have to practice this a lot, so don't be too worried at the start!