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Audience Fit



1c. Make some sentences short.

  • Make the agent the subject. The agent is the character who acts.
  • Put the important action in the verb. (Don’t hide, or imply, or suggest what happens. Reveal that activity in the main verb.)
  • Remove phrases between the subject and the verb. If possible, weed out verbiage between the verb and the direct object, too.
  • If your original sentence contains a subordinate clause somewhere in the middle, turn the clause into a separate sentence. One subordinate clause per sentence is OK--at the beginning or (best) at the end.
  • Explode a compound sentence (two parts joined by and) into two sentences. Feel free to begin a new sentence with But.
  • Replace a semicolon (;) with a period, and start a new sentence. (No one can see the semicolon onscreen, anyway).
  • Get to the gist of what you want to say.
  • Do not make every sentence short. If you do that, you may end up sounding like a sixth grader writing a report on dinosaurs.


Too often inexperienced writers think that writing calls for long sentences rather than short ones--just as they believe that writing calls for fancy words rather than plain ones. Both notions are wrong. –Kolln(2003)

In fact, there is nothing wrong with a long sentence if its subjects and verbs match its characters and actions. But even so, when we match subjects and verbs with characters and actions, we almost always write a shorter sentence.

...What counts is not the number of words in a sentence, but how easily we get from beginning to end while understanding everything in between. –Williams(1990).

See bibliography: Horton (1990), Kolln (2003), Krug (2000), Levine (1997), Morkes & Nielsen (1997, 1998), Nielsen (1997a, 1997b, 1999f), Spyridakis (2000), Sullivan (1998), Williams (1990).

Other ways to trim that text

1a. Cut any paper-based text by 50%.

1b. Use short words.

1d. Make most paragraphs short.

1e. Delete marketing fluff.

1f. Move vital but tangential or supplemental material.

1g. Convert repeating categories of information into tables.

1h. Beware of cutting so far that you make the text ambiguous.

Resources on brevity

Taking a Position on Brevity

Heuristic Online Text (HOT) Evaluation for Brevity






Audience Fit











If visitors want... How well does this guideline apply?
To have fun Variety amuses us. Don't make every sentence short--just the jokes. After rambling through elaborate discourse, use brevity to pull the reader up short.
To learn Use short sentences for key information, such as definitions, big ideas, major themes.
To act One step, one action.  That's a single sentence.
To be aware Reread your favorite spiritual master. Notice how many of the most important sentences are brief?
To get close to people Say hello.  Shake hands.  Sit down. Chat.

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