25 words

rulerb29-9-12
Your sentences are too long. Shorten your sentences!

As an editor, I’m more descriptive instead of prescriptive. I know that audience, context and genre shape meaning. Language is a shifting beast–but more problematically than that, the so-called ‘rules’ of grammar and writing are arbitrary, classist, colonialist, even wrong.

But I’m still going to tell you to shorten your sentences. Aim to keep them no longer than 25 words. Here’s why & how.

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Favour the active voice

Active voice sentences are shorter and clearer than passive voice ones. When you write in the passive voice, the person who is doing the action is removed from the story you’re telling. Think of the difference between these two (fictional) headlines:

  1. Funding for Scientific Research Cut (passive voice)
  2. Trudeau Cuts Scientific Research Funding (active voice)

The second sentence tells us more about the person who has cut the funding–it tells a more complete story–using the same number of words. Here’s how you can identify passive constructions in your own writing, and how you can use the passive voice strategically:

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