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English Speaking Skills: What is Best Number of Words in Sentences?

English Speaking Skills: What is Best Number of Words in Sentences?


English communication and writing.  Did you ever wonder what length of sentences are best for communicating information in writing?

Here is one angle of view on that question.

I investigated newspapers for answers because they are intended for a large variety of readers.  Readers are looking to get information pleasantly, quickly, and memorably.  Writers are eager to please readers.

Here’s what I found across four writers from a variety of newspapers:

  • Two thirds of the sentences were shorter than 25 words
  • A little more than a fourth of the sentences were between 25 and 35 words
  • Less than a tenth of the sentences were between 35 and 45 words
  • Less than one percent of sentences were greater than 45 words

Here are some other observations:

Variety is predominant.  Of the sentences shorter than 25 words, they were evenly divided between shorter than 10 words, 11 to 19 words, and 20 to 25 words.

About one out of every four sentences was between 25 and 35 words.

Fairly rare were sentences between 35 and 45 words—only one sentence in 10.

You already know how difficult it is to read a really long sentence.  The different writers knew that, so only 1 out of 100 sentences had more than 45 words.

So the take home message is simple —  for your writing in English, count words.  Especially count words when you see your sentences are lengthy.  If your sentence is greater than 25 words, break it up into two sentences.  Of course, sometimes several pieces of information are better communicated in one utterance or sentence.  Best is to keep those sentences shorter than 35 words.  For ease in reading and for understanding the information, make sure only a few sentences are longer than 35 words.  And you will need a particularly compelling reason to make a sentence lengthier than 45 words.

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Rerun from Jan 27, 2016

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