Home TIPS Articles Tips Keep it Short and Simple (and don't forget the punctuation)!
Keep it Short and Simple (and don't forget the punctuation)!

Write short sentences, averaging 15-20 words.
Count your words for ten sentences and average them to be sure you are within this range.  Research shows that longer sentences are more difficult to understand even when the ideas are simple. It's not always easy, though, to write concisely. As one eloquent writer once put it: "I apologize for this long letter. If I had more time, I'd have written a shorter one."  

Avoid wordiness and redundancy.
Reduce long phrases to short ones and to single words whenever possible. Eliminate expressions that say the same thing twice - such as "In my opinion, I think" or "each and every."  Instead of "I would like to take this opportunity to thank you," try "Thank you."  Instead of "blue in color," try "blue."  Instead of "subsequent to," try "after."

Watch the punctuation.
Punctuation is not just about rules; it helps you to deliver a clear point.  Muddle your punctuation and you muddle your meaning. The power of punctuation is made clear in the pairs of sentences below.  Each is worded identically, but the meanings are very different because of punctuation.

1. A.  Do not break your bread or roll in your soup.
bbB.  Do not break your bread, or roll in your soup.
Both show bad manners, but which is harder to do?

2. A.  Miami must still play Iowa, which tied Notre Dame, and Miami.
bbB.  Miami must still play Iowa, which tied Notre Dame and Miami
In which case does Miami have only one game left to play?

3. A.  The butler was asked to stand by the door and call the guests names as they entered.
bbB.  The butler was asked to stand by the door and call the guests' names as they entered.
Which situation may result in a black eye for the butler?


Answers 1.B, 2.B, 3.A.

 

Publication and Reprint Information

Unless otherwise attributed, all material is written and edited by Susan B. Kline. Copyright © Susan B. Kline 2011. All Rights Reserved. I invite you to reprint material from this website for educational purposes, provided this copyright notice ("Written and edited by Susan B. Kline, © Susan B. Kline [year]. All Rights Reserved.") and a link to sbkline.com is included in the credits.

 

Grammar Hotline

No more need to wonder about that grammar question!
Contact Sue Kline