Length of Sentences
How long should a sentence be? This is a major problem for many students.
The answer is, the sentence should be short enough for clarity, but long enough for detail. Both are key elements in any sentence. You must maintain a balance between the two.
Beginning students often create sentences which are too long. These sentences are often confused and unclear. The grammar gets easily tangled, for one thing. In addition, longer sentences are harder to read. One sentence is supposed to contain one idea. If the sentence is too long, the reader will begin to forget the beginning before they get to the end. It takes skill to write a long sentence which is also clear.
Here are a few easy guidelines for beginning writers:
- Word Count: Any sentence should be 25 words or less. 30 is too long. Less than 20 is best. Don't be too short, or else the sentence will be too choppy and vague.
- Clause Count: Use no more than 2 independent clauses and one dependent clause. A total of two clauses is better.
Until you become a much more skilled writer, you should stay within those limits for all the sentences in your essay.
If a sentence becomes too long, split it up into two or more sentences. Make the division where the connections are least strong.
Basic Sentence Length Rule
25 Words or fewer
One or two independent clauses maximum
Three total clauses maximum