I’ve recently become lost in several Unending Sentences of Doom. I’m sure you know the kind I mean. They go on for ever and ever. It’s a paragraph in its own right. By the time you’ve finished it, you’ve completely forgotten what it was about!
As a reader, editor and GM I hate those sentences. Don’t make me work hard to understand what you’ve written. I’m probably busy and/or distracted. I need all the help I can get understanding what I’m reading.
I recently discovered some (to me) fascinating writing advice on the UK government website (of all places).
Of course, when I say fascinating I might be overstating things somewhat, but in any event the advice is excellent for aspiring writers and designers:
The longer the sentence, the harder it is to understand.
As game designers it’s easy—when crafting our next masterpiece—to focus on exciting combats, unique stat blocks and intricate backgrounds. But, all that effort is pointless if the reader can’t easily understand what you’ve written.
Good writing is the bedrock of good design. Without good writing, it doesn’t matter how “cool” your content.
Sentence Structure & Length
Writing guru Ann Sylie presents these findings on sentence length:
- When the average sentence length is 8 words, readers understand 100% of the text.
- When the average sentence length is 14 words, readers understand more than 90% of the text.
- When the average sentence length is 43 words, comprehension drops to less than 10%.
Remember: long sentences decrease understanding.
- 11-word sentences are easy to understand.
- 21-word sentences are fairly difficult to understand.
- 25-word sentences are difficult to understand.
- 29-word (and longer) sentences are very difficult to understand.
Moto #1: Break longer sentences down into multiple shorter sentences.
Moto #2: Write short sentences using plain English.
This Article’s Statistics
This article comprises 396 words broken down into 40 sentences. The average number of words per sentence is 9.9.
I’m not suggesting all your sentences should be short. Rather, I’m suggesting a vital part of your self-editing is a close look at sentence length and readability. Remember: as a writer and designer it is your job to help your readers understand what you have written.
Have you found this article useful? Alternatively, is it balderdash? Let me know, in the comments below.