Top 6 Tips to Optimize Sentence Length in Your Research Paper
Academic writing delivers precise and accurate information, and to this end, places a high premium on well-constructed, meticulously thought-out content. Alas! Often, these sacred attributes lead academic sentences to become long and complex, making the text difficult to read. In this piece, let’s look at the top six tips to help you maintain a suitable sentence length so you can communicate your message more effectively to the reader, which otherwise is difficult to achieve, in a lengthy sentence in which the readers have to go through chains of words and ideas without a break or a pause and so find it tougher to process all the information and keep in mind what the original message or overall objective was when they began reading the sentence and where all this information is heading toward!
If you found yourself wondering where the previous sentence would end or your eyes glazing over, well…that is the problem we are addressing in this post. Overly long sentences! So read on!
Lengthy, winding sentences negatively affect comprehension and readability. The author’s line of thought can be really difficult to follow. Conversely, too short sentences make for fragmented writing, without flow, and cannot convey intricate thoughts and ideas.
Is there a technique to optimize sentence length? Surely, there is.
Here are the top six tips:
1. Appropriate Sentence Length
Most readability formulas use the number of words in a sentence to measure its complexity. The average recommended sentence length should be 20–25 words. This is an excellent rule of thumb to express your meaning in a balanced manner and avoid lengthy or choppy sentences. The number varies according to the domain, audience, or the type of writing. For instance, the average sentence length in the abstracts of the natural sciences is known to be shorter than that found in social science and humanities abstracts. At times, lengthy sentences in academic writing are unavoidable due to the peripheral information they contain, e.g., lists, asides, statistical information. Be prudent to punctuate such sentences so that the reader is able to make those important mental pauses to register the information and continue reading.
2. Vary Your Sentence Length
Refrain from following a strict length for each sentence. Your writing needs to have a blend of short, medium, and long sentences. The above tip recommends an average for a long sentence. Incorporating variety in academic writing eliminates monotony, generates emphasis where required, and aids the reader in recognizing connections between different points.
If you find that your sentence is as lengthy as a paragraph or about 40–50 words, break it down to shorter sentences. Likewise, if your text has several back-to-back short sentences, combine them.
3. Focus on Your Message
Do not cram two or more major ideas into a lengthy sentence. Identify your main points and present them with pauses by breaking them down into shorter sentences. Or add an appropriate punctuation mark, such as a period, comma, or semicolon. Losing focus of your message will result in long-drawn-out sentences and disorganized writing. When communicating a series of facts, do not needlessly join all facts in a single sentence but split them into smaller sentences.
4. Fix Short Sentences
Integrating sentences into a longer one is an easy way of fixing short, fragmented sentences. Use coordinating conjunctions (but, or, yet, so, and, nor, for) to avoid strings of short, vaguely related sentences. Subordinating conjunctions (e.g., because, after, since, whereas) are also used to join sentences as well as ideas effectively.
5. Fix Long Sentences
Following the opposite of the above tip, substitute coordinating conjunctions with a period to start a fresh sentence. Avoid stuffing too much information into one long sentence using commas.
6. Use Concise Expressions
Writing concisely and avoiding redundancy play an important role in securing your text from long-drawn sentences. You could avoid starting sentences with there/it is, decrease verbose phrases and unnecessary prepositional phrases, and use the active voice.
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