How long should a sentence be? Striking a Happy Medium
I'm always banging on about the perils of yawn-inducing long sentences and the painful impact on the brain of repetitive short ones.
So what's the answer? In our blogs, our web copy, our newsletters, our sales copy ... How long should our sentences be?
In literature, well-crafted long sentences are wondrous to behold, but I - and I guess you too - have scant concern today for the delights of Dickens or Dostoevsky.
What you and I are both looking for is more effective engagement. We want our clients, both existing and potential, to respond to our copy by picking up the phone or submitting their contact info.
So, we're agreed.
For online copy, long sentences - i.e. over 20 words - are a no-no. We need a seductive mix of short and medium, with an average length of 17 words.
Your copy needs to look, sound and, most importantly, feel good.
The idea is to give your readers a smooth ride. Not so much a frantic bashing and bumping around on the dodgems ... more of a summer's afternoon drive over the Yorkshire Moors.
When you're writing your blog post or your website copy, imagine you're composing a piece of music. The punctuation is the rhythm and the words are the melody.
Try the occasional short-short-long trick, where two short sentences set up a dramatic longer one.
Mackeson Stout had the right idea.
OK - I know. You're way too young to recall that far back.
But the slogan went something like this -
It looks good.
It tastes good ...
... and, by golly, it does you good!
Getting the rhythm of your copywriting right isn't easy. It takes time and it takes practice. But, look at it this way. What's a new customer worth to you? £100? £1,000? £10,000?
If you're to achieve that Holy Grail of engaged, interested customers, won't it be worth committing that little bit of time and practice?