The old saying goes that easy reading is darn hard writing. But what makes writing easy to read? One quality is sentence fluency. Fluent sentences flow smoothly from one to the next, helping readers grasp ideas and build momentum.
As any writer will tell you, though, sentences don't always come out as smoothly as you'd like. That's why revising is so crucial. Today's tip will help you find and fix sentences that sound choppy or rambling.
To begin, trust your ears. Reread your work (preferably out loud), and listen for parts that sound choppy, rambling, or unnatural. Then apply one of the following fixes.
1. Vary Sentence Lengths
Check your sentence lengths. Are they all the same?
Too many short sentences in a row lead to choppiness. The writing sounds robotic. Ideas end abruptly. The reader gets bored. It's no good. (Do you hear it happening?)
While too many short sentences can cause problems, too many long sentences one after another can make it difficult for readers to pick out the main points, which may get lost in a tangle of phrases and clauses, forcing the reader to go back and reread. (Imagine reading two or three long sentences like this in a row. Yikes!)
Instead, strive for a balance. Combine some of the short, related sentences and rework others to create a good balance and help the reader stay on task. (Now that paragraph sounds better, doesn't it?)
The Davistown Arts Council is launching Music Alive. Music Alive involves a network of restaurants. The restaurants feature live performances. The musicians include singer-songwriters. There are classical guitarists. There are violinists. There's even a harpist. Your business would make a perfect venue for Music Alive.
The Davistown Arts Council is launching Music Alive—a network of local restaurants that feature live performances. The musicians include singer-songwriters, classical guitarists and violinists, and even a harpist. Your business would be a perfect venue for Music Alive.
2. Vary Sentence Beginnings
Start some sentences with the subject, others with a transition word, and still others with an introductory phrase or clause.
We appreciate your past generosity, and we thank you for your continued support. We believe you could enable us to help more people. We ask that you please consider raising your donation level.
We appreciate your past generosity and thank you for your continued support. To enable us to help more people, we are asking that you please consider raising your donation level.
3. Vary Sentence Functions
Different kinds of sentences do different jobs. Sentences can be statements, questions, commands, conditionals, or exclamations. If your writing is dragging on with predictable sentences, try adding a sentence that has a different function.
Use statements to provide to-the-point information about your subject.
The United States Mint produces between 11 billion and 20 billion coins per year.
Use questions to request information about your subject or to request action.
Is the United States Mint responsible for bills as well?
Use commands to tell the reader to do something. Commands have an implied subject, the word you.
Visit the Mint’s website to learn more.
Use conditionals to show how an outcome occurs only if a condition is met. The word if often introduces the condition. The word then sometimes introduces the outcome.
If you like coins, then you should read about the Mint.
Use exclamations sparingly to express strong feelings.
The Mint has an amazing history!
Variety is not only “the spice of life” but also the spice of writing. Consider presenting difficult concepts in simple, straightforward sentences, and combining less difficult ideas into the more involved sentence structures. The desired result is not only variety but clarity.