Very often we write as we speak and, as a result, our written sentences are too long for people to digest quickly. This is especially true of reports, tenders and proposals.
That’s not to say that sentences must always be short. There’s a school of thought that says business writing should comprise sentences of no more than seven words. Other people say 15 words max. That’s fine for direct mail, flyers, adverts, brochures and website copy. But when you’re explaining complex points to your readers, it’s inevitable that your sentences will be on the longer side. Longer sentences are fine. It’s all about clarity. Indeed, a mix of long and short sentences is a good approach to writing.
So what can we do to make our sentences sharper and easier to read without losing their meaning?
Here are 5 quick tips:
- Lose your ‘ands’ and ‘buts’. Break your sentences into two (or more). Replace ‘and’ and ‘but’ with a full stop.
- Use different sentence openings to keep the flow: you, therefore, consequently, subsequently, plus, next, when, with, while, when.
- Use short words – go for simplicity.
- Tidy up your writing by checking for sense, flow, tone, style and punctuation. It’s possible you’ll probably end up rewriting the whole document again.
- Be your own editor: carefully to check you haven’t left out too many words and lost the meaning.