When you sit down to write, you sometimes have moments of sheer genius. You can write a piece seamlessly from beginning to end without any issues. Other times, you may hit writer’s block and any task seems impossible to complete.
More often than not, though, you may experience smaller struggles as you write. One of the most common issues you may face includes creating an engaging rhythm in your writing. After all, without an upbeat, moving rhythm, your piece might not flow as well as it could—and readers may have a harder time reading it from beginning to end.
So how do you establish a good rhythm in writing? Here, we’ll talk about how varying your sentence lengths can create a flowing rhythm in any piece of writing. We’ll also provide a few tips so you can establish rhythm in writing and create a written work sure to grasp and hold onto your audience.
What Is Rhythm?
Rhythm is a natural pattern in speech and writing. The words you use when you speak or write contain a balance of stressed and unstressed syllables. That flow creates a rhythm to help a sentence flow smoothly.
In writing, you may think rhythm only exists in poetry. Poems use a variation of stressed and unstressed syllables throughout the entire piece to make it sound almost like a song. But you don’t have to write poetry to include rhythm. Again, the combination of unstressed and stressed syllables in the words you use creates a small, natural rhythm within any form of writing.
However, when you write longer pieces, such as blog articles or stories, you have to use other strategies to establish a good rhythm and keep a piece flowing. That’s where varying sentence length comes in.
How Does Sentence Length Affect Rhythm?
When all the sentences in a piece of writing are the same length, the flow seems unnatural. It sounds monotonous. The piece becomes boring to readers. For example:
Here’s a short sentence. I’ll write some more. They’re only four words. Not much is said. But there’s a pattern. Everything is the same. Short, simple, and boring. Are you feeling frustrated? Does this sound weird? Is it boring yet?
According to some writing experts, there’s a psychology to writing. Because the sentences we speak differ in length, complexity, tone, and pace, our ears are used to hearing unique, song-like patterns. So when we read, we expect to see those same patterns in writing.
When sentences are all the same length, we feel frustrated and bored because we’re missing the crucial rhythmic element we’re used to hearing.
How Can I Create a Rhythm in Writing?
Instead of keeping sentences all the same length, use various sentence lengths to create this song-like rhythm. A mixture of short, medium, and long sentences enhances the rhythm in writing.
In fact, sentence lengths act the same way that unstressed and stressed syllables in words do in establishing rhythm. The combination of various sentence structures provides a change of pace that readers need to stay engaged in a piece of writing.
Try some of the following tips as you craft your next piece of prose.
Use Long Sentences to Express Complex Ideas
When you have a complex idea you want to present to your readers, longer sentences are the perfect vessel. You can describe ideas and concepts in detail while painting an image with the words you choose. Try something like:
In just a few short days, I’ll experience the event of a lifetime—the music, the pictures, the food, the attire all add to the ambiance and the feeling, and I can’t wait to experience the sheer joy I know I’ll feel at this party.
Longer sentences that ooze with detail and imagery pique your readers’ interest. Your readers will crave more. They’ll keep reading to quench their thirst for additional information.
Use Short Sentences as a Friendly Shock and Awe
While long sentences raise readers’ curiosity, short sentences can uniquely and abruptly make ideas stand out. When you want to use a friendly shock-and-awe technique to surprise your readers, use short sentences.
These small, short interruptions are used best at the end or beginning of paragraphs to make a point. However, you can add them strategically in the middle of your writing, again to make a point and further pique your readers’ interest in the piece. Small sentences like the following enhance the overall flow and rhythm:
When I got home, the last thing I expected was to see him standing there. Alone. He looked just as I remembered. Tall. Debonair. And devilish.
The small break in flow that short sentences provide expresses enthusiasm and tone. It makes the sentence (and the overall message) stand out.
Use Medium Sentences as Bridges
If you don’t need to express a complex idea or make an important idea stand out, use medium-length sentences. Additionally, medium sentences can act as bridges that connect longer and shorter sentences together while adding to the overall rhythm.
While I drove home from the grocery store, I saw a small, dark car following me. It looked familiar, somehow. Or did it?
In this example, the middle sentence bridges the first and last sentences together without overshadowing the complex idea or brief interjection.
Use Other Techniques to Enhance Your Rhythm
While you want to vary your sentence length to establish rhythm in writing, use the following techniques to further enhance your writing’s rhythm and flow:
- Avoid predictability. Your readers shouldn’t predict how you vary your sentences structures. Consistently mix up sentence lengths in different ways to keep your information clear and your readers on their toes.
- Keep mood and tone in mind. When you write, you have a specific tone or mood that you want to convey. Use various sentence lengths to embody that particular tone and hook your audience. Shorter sentences can create an edgier tone, while longer sentences can make the tone seem softer or more serious.
Ready to establish rhythm in your next piece of prose? Whatever you’re writing, use the tips above to create variable sentence lengths and craft a unique rhythm that will give your piece life.