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Sentence Variation


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Sentences by word count:  This section provides the number of sentences that fall within a specified range of word lengths. Clicking on the length range will highlight the sentences found in that range within your text. This is a useful way to isolate longer sentences, look for slow paced areas, and identify patterns in your writing. Clicking the word range again will remove the highlighting from your text.

Individual sentences:  This section provides a comprehensive list of the length of every sentence found in your text. Clicking the word count again will remove the highlighting from your text. You can also clear all the highlights using the “deselect all” button.

Why should you care about sentence length?

Variety is the spice of life—and the same thing can be said about writing. Vibrant, interesting prose depends not just on the words you use, but also on the lengths of your sentences.

Varying the lengths of your sentences is a great way to keep your writing interesting. Too many sentences of the same length can become boring to the reader.

Take a look at this example:

Ella was asleep on the couch. Simon watched her for a moment. He did not want to wake her. She looked so peaceful lying there. But it was getting late. They had to get going. He touched her shoulder and cheek. She sighed but did not stir.

If it sounds dull, that’s because it is. The sentences are similar in length, which quickly becomes flat and boring. It also feels a tad juvenile, like this was written for children. And readers don’t want to be talked down to.

Check out my humble revision:

Ella was asleep on the couch. Watching her, Simon felt reluctant to wake her. She looked so peaceful lying there. But it was getting late, and they really had to get going. He touched her shoulder, then her cheek. She sighed but did not stir.

See how much livelier that is? The words are almost identical in each version, but the simple act of varying the sentence lengths instantly makes the prose more interesting and readable.

Now that you see how important it is to mix up your sentence lengths, here’s a great little trick: Try to match the lengths of your sentences to the emotion or action in your scene.

If you’ve got an action-packed scene with high drama, your sentences should be shorter and snappier—shorter sentences raise the tension, which is what you want in an action sequence. Likewise, if your scene is melancholic or descriptive, lean toward a mix of longer sentences to help reflect the contemplative nature of the scene.

Related areas to look for in your manuscript

Varying the length of your sentences is one way to add variety to your prose. Another way is to mix up the way you start your sentences.

Sometimes we fall into the same patterns as we write, always starting with the same construction or word choice. Three of the most common sentence-starter pitfalls include too frequently starting with pronouns (He, She, It); too often starting with conjunctions (But, And, For, So, Yet, Because); and starting too many times with an –ING verb (Running down the hall, …).

You can check for these on your own—or you can get help from AutoCrit:

The Initial Pronoun Analysis helps you see how often you start sentences in your manuscript with either a pronoun (She, He, It) or a character name.

The Sentence Starters Analysis helps you find sentences that begin with initial conjunctions and -ING verbs.

The bottom line

The simple act of varying your sentence lengths will have a huge impact on the vibrancy and readability of your writing. So mix it up!