Zinsser, King, Vonnegut, Hemingway – almost every writing legend would tell you:
Write simply and short.
It’s one of the easiest ways to get read, understood, enjoyed, and even loved in this age of universal ‘Buzzfeed.’
But the question is How?
Verlyn Kinkenborg is one of my favorite authors.
If there’s a school for writing short paragraphs and sentences, I think he’d be a senior professor there. His advocate for shorter sentences is simply out of heaven.
He even wrote an entire book on the subject. It’s called Several Short Sentences about writing.
Do you know what he did in the book?
It has no chapters… No sections… No sub-sections.
Just a mass of continuous short sentences that read like poetry.
The book is written in stanzas. And every stanza has a unique meaning and shade.
This is how Verlyn describes short sentences:
Imagine it this way:
One by one, each sentence takes the stage.
It says the very thing it comes into existence to say.
Then it leaves the stage.
It doesn’t help the next one up or the previous one down.
It doesn’t wave to its friends in the audience.
Or pause to be acknowledged or applauded.
It doesn’t talk about what it’s saying.
It simply says its piece and leaves the stage…
He then added …
This isn’t the whole art of writing well.
It isn’t most of it.
But it’s a place to begin, and to begin from again and again.
This is one of those paragraphs you print out in bold characters and stick all over your writing workshop.
I am almost convinced to drop my pen here.
What else could be said about writing short sentences and paragraphs that aren’t already captured by Veryln in the above stanza?
But we still have a pending question.
. . .
How To Write Short Sentences
#1. The best place to write short sentences is from the beginning.
Right from your mind before the sentence ever finds its way out.
It starts with a conscious desire to want to write short sentences. To breathe at intervals not too far from each other. To serve your ideas in small splashes of light.
Then you begin to find it in your heart to use a period instead of a comma, a semicolon, or even in a column.
Do you think this is unnatural?
What is unnatural is when you write long sentences and then try to force periods in-between. Many writers do it and you can often tell from how their sentences stop abruptly.
first step? Prepare your mind to write short sentences. that’s where most of the work’s done.
#2 Eliminate unnecessary filler words:
Many words in your sentence would be redundant. They would also be invincible. Unless you take an effort to spot them, they’d go.
Words like Just, Really, Very, Even, that, the fact that, on and on.
Most common are adverbs restating the verb.
Not only that. Every word which makes it to print has to prove its importance.
Veryln puts it this way:
Every word is optional until it proves to be essential. Something you can only determine by removing words one by one and see what’s lost or gained
#3 Most sentences need no preamble.
Or postludes. You don’t need to introduce a sentence. The sentence itself is the sentence. The message itself is the message.
Many long sentences originate from writers explaining the sentence they’re making. They don’t trust their readers’ imagination to pick up. That’s unnecessary, you know. The way this is unnecessary.
Brazilian Author, Paulo Coelho surely has a case against writers overfilling. He said:
Trust your reader. He or she has a lot of imagination. Don’t try to describe things. Give a hint and they will fulfill this hint with their own imagination.
#4 Keep the space between sentences short
Try to keep the space between the end of one sentence and the subject of the next short. When you’re done making this sentence, how long does it takes to hit the subject of the next? “The space often gets filled with unnecessary words,” says Verlyn.
#5 Don’t masturbate with your message
Imagine hitting your computer and immediately begin to say what you want to say. No foreplay, no romance, No fluff.
This is not being boring. It’s brevity. It’s respect for reader’s time.
Don’t masturbate with the idea you want to present. Don’t hold it too long in your head before spilling it out. Why not start by saying it and see how one or two lines solve the entire problem
Not All Your Sentences Should Be Short
The beauty of writing is variations. Too many short sentences are as bad as too many long ones.
Writing is an activity that stems from memories, emotions, experiences, events, observations, intuitions, and the conversations happening within the brain.
None of these is parallel.
So your writing when left to flow won’t be parallel.
Be at peace with yourself and your work. You’d find your words coming crisp and punchy.
What results from short sentences is something beautiful and easy to read. Something most average people would be capable of enjoying. Something extraordinary you didn’t have to masturbate or sedate yourself to produce…