Short sentences are easier to understand
Add a word to your sentence, and you’ll reduce comprehension. Add another one, reduce it even further. Add another one and reduce it even more.
There’s almost a one-to-one correlation between sentence length and understanding, according to research by the American Press Institute. The research, based on studies of 410 newspapers, correlated the average number of words in a sentence with reader comprehension.
The study found that:
- With average sentences of 8 words or less, readers understood 100% of the story. (Downside: Copy might sound as if it had been ripped from a Dick and Jane book.)
- At 14 words, they understood 90% of the information.
- At 43 words, they understood less than 10%.
And that 107-word sentence your subject-matter expert made you write? It actually subtracts from the sum of human knowledge. After reading that sentence, your readers not only don’t know what they’ve read, they also forget where they parked the car.
NEW! Rev Up Readership online workshop
How long is too long? What’s the right length for your piece? Your paragraphs? Your sentences? Your words?
Find out at Rev Up Readability our clear-writing workshop — online May 4-June 1.
There, you’ll use a cool (free!) tool to analyze your message for 27 readability metrics. You’ll leave with quantifiable targets, tips and techniques for measurably boosting readability.
You’ll see your readability skyrocket in our practice sessions. Over the course of the class, our participants have increased reading ease by 200%, 360% — even 1,200%.
Save up to $100 with our group discounts.