Grammar Time: Sentence Sprawl and Why Concise Writing Is Important
December 11, 2017
For today’s Grammar Time, we’re going to discuss sentence sprawl. Web readers like to get the information they want and move on, so if you want to keep readers’ attention, be concise. Here is why concision is important.
Concision and Clarity
Concision is the art of clearly presenting a lot of information in few words. Concise sentences tend to be short and easy to follow; their structure is simple.
Imagine that you step on your carpet and feel water squeeze out around your toes. You probably have a leak, but you don’t know how to stop it. You turn to the internet.
What if the first article you click on starts like this:
“If a pipe explodes in your home, then you’ll have to act fast to prevent extensive property damage and even illness. It’s more than likely that right now, the water is soaking your carpet, likely ruining it — costing you lots of money — and putting your family in danger of illness caused by the mold and mildew that will form, possibly forcing you to seek extensive and expensive mold remediation services. You could try everything you can think of only to find that you didn’t do the right thing quickly enough. Time is of the essence, so consider the following factors as you move forward in addressing your plumbing issue.”
Would you keep reading? Probably not. You want to know what to do right now. Meandering sentences about the effects of mold don’t stop the water.
What if the first article you click on has this introduction:
“If a pipe explodes in your home, then you’ll have to act fast. Follow these steps to turn off the water, save your belongings, and secure financial compensation from your insurance company.”
This introduction says many of the same things that the previous example does. However, the shorter introduction gets to the point faster and more clearly. The reader knows what to do, what order to do those tasks in, and where in the article to find further instructions.
Concise Web Writing and Tips
When you write an article, ask what information your reader wants to know, and then help them get that knowledge efficiently. The content needs to be helpful, and the form needs to be accessible.
How do you do this? Consider these tips:
- Use action verbs and avoid passive voice.
- Limit sentences to a single verb and subject, when possible.
- Use literal examples
- Avoid lengthy sentences. Most sources suggests keeping a sentence under twenty words.
- When appropriate, add headings to break up and organize your information.
Just remember to keep things clear and short. Thanks, folks!