For sentence rhythm, use a combination of long and short sentences. To express a complex idea, however, use a short sentence.

The site on Federal Plain Language Guidelines says that “complexity is the greatest enemy of clear communication.”

“Express only one idea in each sentence. Long, complicated sentences often mean that you aren’t sure about what you want to say. Shorter sentences are also better for conveying complex information; they break the information up into smaller, easier-to-process units. Sentences loaded with dependent clauses and exceptions confuse the audience by losing the main point in a forest of words. Resist the temptation to put everything in one sentence; break up your idea into its parts and make each one the subject of its own sentence.”

Read the rest of the discussion here.

Plain Language Network also finds advantages in keeping some of our sentences short.

Readers can only take in so much new information at one time. Some people recommend that sentences should average 15 words in length and that no sentence should be longer than 25 words. This rule is not hard and fast, however. Readers can understand longer sentences if they are well constructed and use familiar terms. A variety of sentence lengths make your writing most interesting.

Instead of:

This policy does not appear to be well understood by line management in the region, even though this group has primary responsibility or implementing the policy.


The regional managers who are most responsible for carrying out this policy do not seem to understand it well.

Instead of:

The parameters of your responsibility are included in the job description you received on your initial day of work at the association.


Your responsibilities are listed in your job description. You received your job description the first day you worked here.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s