Before You Submit: Sentence Length

Do you have a draft of your novel or short story and are thinking of submitting to an agent, publisher or writing contest? My series called Before You Submit might help. This series contains hints and tips I’ve received from professionals in the publishing industry. Each week I’ll share a new tip.

This week I’ll write about Sentence Length.

My editor wrote: Simple declarative sentences are powerful but tend to lose power if repeated too often.  If all your sentences are the same length, the writing can come across as dull, and I’m going to guess none of us want to create a dull novel.

There are software programs that provide a graph of your sentence lengths. Autocrit and ProWritingAid are two of them. I haven’t reviewed either product fully, so this is not a product plug. If you don’t want to use another software program, you can take a section of your text, hit return after each sentence and “see” the sentence lengths on the page. This will give you an idea if you vary your sentence lengths.

If the text is shaped like a rectangle, your sentence lengths are too similar.

If all your sentences are short, try joining two sentences with a conjunction making a longer sentence. You can leave in or take our the subject if the subject is the same in both original sentences. This is a subjective choice. Just make sure you get the comma right.

If all your sentences are long, try breaking a sentence into two or even three sentences.

I hope this helps improve your writing.

See Before You Submit:Likeable Characters for the first blog in this series and an introduction the benefits of submitting even if you get a rejection letter.

Thanks for reading . . .

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5 thoughts on “Before You Submit: Sentence Length

  1. I saw a great little link posted on Twitter about a month ago on this and it was an example. It was great to see it in practice. I might look up those bits of software though, just to look… Thank you.

    Like

  2. My editor wrote: Simple declarative sentences are powerful but tend to lose power if repeated to often. If all your sentences are the same length, the writing can come across as dull, and I’m going to guess none of us want to create a dull novel.

    his editor might change “if repeated to often” to “too”

    Like

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