Let the beat control your writing

4 June 2017

I read something good. About writing. And pacing. And punctuation. Specifically, sentence length. You should keep it varied. Not only use short ones. Some sentences should be longer then twenty words. Others are less, but more than, say, seven. Everything shorter than seven is short. The point is, you have to vary them. Not have 3 or more of the same type, consecutively. That is not only boring, but also predictable. The article made it really clear to me that, despite a tendency to write those deliciously meandering sentences (with more subclauses than an iTunes TOS), you really should insert in some short sentences. Those really give a staccato effect to the flow of the text, and, paired with a couple of medium length sentences, don’t feeling jarring after they follow a rambling block of words (without any relief of punctuation in sight).

Record scratch, freeze frame

See? That was terrible. Usually, I tend to lean towards long sentences. Sentences tend to stand on their own, and with more complex subject, it’s very tempting to only use long ones, rich in turns of phrase. The ones that make you sound German. You don’t want that. Short ones are attractive too. They punch. They’re direct. They’re personal. But, used indiscriminately, you could sound like a bad Hunter Thompson cover band. Don’t do it. Keep your reader hooked, but don’t exhaust her. Tell her what you want to tell her, but make sure you have some pit-stops on the way. To breathe. To keep them on their toes. At it’s best, writing is aesthetic, a fact easily overlook by text being the de facto medium for record knowledge. I still have a long way to go.

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