2 women and man speaking to each other

Do you write musically? In songs, some notes are short and some are long. Together, they set a steady flow. Use the same concept to help your writing sing.

Sentence length impacts a reader’s ability to understand your writing. It is a key component of both the Flesch-Kincaid and Gunning-Fog readability scales.

Keep these 3 tips in mind the next time you write:

  • Aim for an average of 20 words per sentence. Watch out for semicolons, commas, and dashes. Sometimes punctuation marks help, but often they become crutches.
  • Each sentence ideally holds one idea. Avoid packing too many concepts into a line. Just like singers, readers need to catch a breath. You can tell a sentence is too long if, by the time a reader finishes, they forgot how it began.
  • Need help finding the beat? While writing, read text out loud. If you need to take a breath before you finish a sentence, it is too long. Pick out the main points in a long sentence. Then give each idea a unique sentence.