In this video, we're going to discussa key aspect of editing a text: auditing your text for words and sentencesthat make it more difficult to read.
Now this sounds very simple, but it can improveyour text a lot.
Isn't that what we all like? Quick fixes that you can apply immediately? Well, let's dive into it, then! The rule of thumb is quite simple: the longer the word, sentence or paragraph, the more difficult it is to read.
This doesn't *always* apply, but generally, follow this rule and you'll be good to go.
And make no mistake: we use difficult words when simpler onesare available so often.
As I was writing this script, in fact, I first wrote, “utilize difficult words when simpleralternatives are available very frequently”.
And then I thought:”Oh wow, now I'm doing it myself: “utilize means the same as use, “I can say 'ones' instead of 'alternatives' and 'often' means exactly the sameas 'frequently'.
” So instead of “utilize difficult words when simpler alternativesare available very frequently”, I'm saying “use difficult words when simplerones are available so often”.
It's just easier, isn't it? And this is just one example, but I do this all the time.
And that's a key point as well: sure, one difficult sentenceisn't going to drive your visitors away.
But these things tend to snowball.
With every difficult wordand sentence you write, your text becomes just a *little* bit moredifficult to read.
And it goes the other way as well.
Any way you can makeyour text easier to read without hurting your message will help.
It's not about dumbing down your text, it's about making your message availableand accessible to more people.
So the way you do this, is simply by goingthrough your text and asking yourself: can I word this differently? Can I make this sentence easier to read by choosing easier wordsthat mean the same thing? OK, so I gave you an exampleof difficult words, but the same principle appliesto sentences.
Long sentences can be a pain to read, especially if there's a lot of themin one piece.
Again, using a long sentence here or thereis not the end of the world.
It's actually great: texts that *only* have short sentencesare often an absolute bore to read.
You have to mix it up.
Keep your readers on their toes.
Just try not to go over 20 words too often.
Reading long sentencesrequires a lot of energy.
And it's often unnecessary.
Long sentences are often causedby one problem.
Many writers tend to put too muchinformation in one sentence.
Just because thoughts are related, doesn't mean they should all bein the same sentence.
Consider each separate ideawithin a sentence and break up your sentenceinto a few shorter ones.
Then, connect the sentencesusing transition words.
I'll give you an exampleof a very long sentence: “Although it can be a challengeto write shorter sentences, “it's really important to do so, becauseit makes your sentences easier to read, even if it requires a little more effort.
” Now, let's try to break it upinto shorter sentences: “It can be a challengeto write shorter sentences.
“Still, it's really importantto make an effort to do so.
After all, it makes your sentences easierto read.
It'll be worth your while!” So, in short, check your textfor sentences that are too long.
If more than say, a quarterof your sentences is longer than 20 words, you can probably do better.
Cut a 25 word sentence upinto two or three shorter sentences.
This will go a long way in makingyour readers' experience a little bit smoother.
There's one big risk that you should avoid.
Some people tend to writewhat we call “fragments” when rewriting long sentencesinto a few shorter ones.
A fragment is an incomplete sentence.
For example, don't write:”When we were working on our copy.
We rewrote sentencesto make them shorter.
” This sentence isn't grammatically correct, because the first sentenceisn't a sentence on its own; it's actually a dependent clauseto the second sentence.
We'll give you some more examples ofdependent clauses in the reading materials.
Another type of fragment is one where a sentence doesn't havea verb that corresponds to its subject, like the second sentence in this example: “One of the risks you can run intois that you start writing fragments.
A mistake people often make when tryingto make their long sentences shorter.
” “A mistake” is a subject that needs a verb(is, in this case), but it isn't there.
When you're rewriting longer sentencesinto shorter ones, always make sure your sentencesare independent clauses, unless you are makinga conscious stylistic choice.
And remember, don't apply everythingI've said too extremely.
Don't use the same word eight timesjust because it's simple.
Do not write 7-word sentences exclusively.
You want your text to be fun to read, so by all means, mix things upif it improves your text.
And if a more difficult word better describeswhat you're trying to say, go for it.
But all things being equal, always makethe easiest option your first choice.
You'll notice the results, and so will your readers.