Sentence Length and Variance

by , under Writing skills

Conversational sentences tend to be short. In fiction, sentences are on average about 20 words long. In academic writing, they are about 40 words long. Whether you write fiction or academic prose, you will still want to vary the length of your sentences.

Here’s why.

This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety.
                                                              —Gary Provost
                                                                  100 Ways to Improve Your Writing

Low sentence length variability

These sentences have the same number of words.
Low sentence length variability
Low sentence length variability

Vary the number of words per sentence for more dynamic writing

Listen what happens when we add sentences of varying lengths.

This sentence has 5 words

This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the symbols – sounds that say listen to this, it is important.
                                                             —Gary Provost
                                                                  100 Ways to Improve Your Writing

Sentence colorization
High sentence length variability
High sentence length variability

Sentence Checker

The Virtual Writing Tutor sentence checker checks the length of your sentences and the variance. The sentence colorization feature helps you to see where your paragraph lacks variability. Use it to help you add greater variability to your sentences and make your writing more dynamic.

Or go here for a simple word counter.

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