The Rules of Engagement: How Long Should Your Sentences Be?

April 05, 2017

One issue that comes up time and again in the world of content creation is the ideal length of a sentence. Since we talk about the engagement factor of content in this blog series, it’s worth mentioning and delving into a little deeper.

It’s important to remember that it only takes one issue to disrupt the engagement between the content and your prospect, and the length of your sentences could be the culprit. Here’s the deal when it comes to sentence length. 

Shorter Sentences Rule

Most of the time when creating content, shorter is better. We’re not talking about fragments of sentences that are impossible to decipher; just full sentences on the shorter side.

We must remember that this is the age of the internet, and as such, the age of short attention spans and the ability to click a button and leave your website. Of course, shorter sentences have always been preferable; even in the heyday of direct mail promotions.

Shorter sentences will keep your audience engaged and focused. They will enable you to pass along your message without breaking the trance of the reader. Shorter, more concise sentences are also easier to understand, so there is no need to double back and read portions of it over again. 

How Long Is Too Long?

Run-on sentences are grammatical missteps where two or more full sentences are joined inappropriately; meaning without the proper punctuation or conjunction. These types of sentences are obviously too long, and should be broken into two shorter sentences.

However, there are times when the sentence is grammatically sound and is still too damn long. I’m not sure of an exact word count that I’d consider “too long.” But when editing pieces for The Content Company, I find that once you get into the 40-plus range for one sentence, it’s time to throw in a period and start a new one. 

Think Communication In Most Cases

In the vast majority of cases, it comes down to communication or the conversation you are having with a particular audience. As long as you are communicating effectively, and the people you want to be reading the content are staying engaged, the length is good. 

When it comes to communicating effectively, the type of audience you want to reach is also a factor when considering sentence length. If you are selling a product or writing a blog post aimed at academics, then more complex sentences may be ideal. If the ass stays in the seat and the eyes remain fixed on your words, then your sentence is probably just right. 

If you aren’t sure, or if you’d like any other expert tips and advice regarding your online content, get in touch with The Content Company today.

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