March 28, 2017

Your Best Bet For Better Writing: Sentence Rhythm

It’s usually the smallest things that make the biggest difference. When it comes to your writing, it all comes down to sentence rhythm. It takes practice. This is different than learning spot-on grammar and formulating coherent ideas that flow perfectly. This, is style.

Varying sentence length means mixing short, medium, and long sentences to create a natural rhythm that’s pleasing to read. There aren’t any hard and fast rules to achieve this. Just a few tips to nudge your writing in the right direction.

The Best use of Long Sentences

Naturally, long sentences are best used to explain complex ideas and “set the scene”, so to speak. They are your landscape paintings, if you will; the broad strokes that will pique curiosity.

Short Sentences for Serious Punch

Bam. Now that’s how you start a story. Using short sentences correctly to begin and end paragraphs, ideas, and even whole articles and stories is the best way to reframe everything the reader just absorbed. There’s power in brevity.

When Short Follows Long

One way to think of short sentences is as punctuation after a long thought (sentence). It can easily flip a reader’s perspective or empower the previous idea.

When Long Follows Short

Long sentences usually follow short ones when they’re used to refocus the narrative or add context to a surprising, punchy opening.

The Rule of Threes

The repetitive nature of three sentences of similar length is more for effect than explanation. This technique is best used for short sentences, followed by one longer sentence that then holds more significant weight. A “long” conclusion after three short sentences, or beats, offers the reader a turning point with impact.

Trying Out Sentence Rhythm in Your Writing

Absorb as much good writing as you can. Read, a lot! Practice. Practice. Practice.

And keep in mind: don’t be predictable when it comes to varying sentence length. Starting every single paragraph with one word can get repetitive. On the flip side, using too many long sentences can get tedious. Keep the reader guessing. Create drama.

Practice makes perfect! Happy writing.