120 – Long vs Short Sentences

The Mythcreant Podcast

Sometimes a sentence is very long, and it keeps going and going with commas in places that a period could be and extra clauses that don’t necessarily need to be there. Other times a sentence is short. Which is better? As is so often the case, the answer is “it depends.” Join our hosts Chris, Wes, and Ariel as they discuss what lengths are appropriate in what contexts, as well as how to vary a sentence’s length. Plus, where in a sentence should you put your most striking words? Our hosts are happy to tell you.

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Opening and closing theme: The Princess Who Saved Herself by Jonathan Coulton. Used with permission.

Show Notes:

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  1. JM

    Doesn’t punctuation aside from period and especially a comma help compact a long sentence? There’s a least a pause in a comma.

    My current WIP averages around 15-25. More than the average of 14. I feel like the comma give at least a pause to a bombardment of words.

    • Chris Winkle

      Commas certainly help by breaking long sentences into chunks, but since the thought often isn’t complete until the end of the sentence, they can’t entirely make up for a sentence that is very long.

      • Jm

        Thanks for the response. On my revision, I would find independent clauses starting with a conjunction and a comma. I couldn’t cut too much other than that lest I censor myself.

        • Chris Winkle

          If you have lots of independent clauses, you should be able to split them into multiple sentences with little difficulty. Sometimes dependant clauses can be turned into independant clauses so they can stand alone.

          As for censoring yourself, I’m not entirely sure what you mean by that, but writers must learn to prioritize. Sometimes writers like long sentences or punctuation such as parenthesis or em dashes because they allow a writer to stuff in extra information. But writing well means deciding which ideas fit and which are just slowing the piece down. If you aren’t willing to let go of phrases you like, you’ll have a tough time.

          • JM

            Sorry for being vague about censoring myself. What I meant is that I wouldn’t follow the average words of 14 per sentence. More often than not, my style goes beyond. As you guys have stated, it’s just a guideline, not a rule. But I will keep this knowledge in my head when revising.

            Thanks for the site and podcast.

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