I heard about a writer whose editor rewrote the sentences of her novel so that they were all the same length. Don’t know which planet this editor was from, but most sentence writing advice cleaves to varying the length.
Writing Tip for Today: Remember my adage? There are only two kinds of writing; writing that works and writing that needs work. Just because Faulkner or James Joyce sometimes wrote long, long sentences doesn’t mean you should. On the other hand, writing too many sentence fragments is also a poor practice. Vary sentence length according to the kind of effect you desire, not solely for how literate or smart you look.
- Long rambling sentences will slow the action, so be sure that’s what you intend. Beware of filler words such as it, there, very, big, little, really. Be specific and say what you mean.
- Most of the time, reserve fragments for occasional use to highlight characterization, in dialogue or to punctuate fast action.
- Resist the urge to use the semi-colon, except when absolutely necessary. Today’s readers prefer shorter, pithy sentences.
- Be Grammatical. If you write a very long sentence, be sure there is subject-verb agreement, no dangling participles and that the sentence isn’t run on. For definitions of these conditions, consult your copy of Elements of Style or Eats Shoots and Leaves.
- Don’t fall for the temptation to write long or short sentences based only on how the words sound. If the story gets lost, it’s only word play. And try not to make all your sentences the same length.