If you have ever spotted me at a coffee shop, which I honestly doubt, you might have noticed that I tend to speak while I write, or simply said, I dictate to myself.
Apart from making you look like a total lunatic, dictation can make your sentences shorter and significantly improve your writing.
If you try to dictate your words, you will automatically stop your sentence the moment before you run out of breath. Thanks to that, your sentence will have a natural rhythm and melody.
Whenever you spot a long sentence in your writing, try to read it out loud. If it doesn’t sound right, if it doesn’t have that natural, conversational pace, split it into several short, declarative sentences and see what happens.
There is a popular belief that beautiful prose is a reflection of endless, confusing sentences. And, if your reader grasps your sentence at the first reading, your style simply isn’t good enough; it’s not intellectual.
There is nothing wrong with writing short, precise sentences. They are much sharper and they send a very clear message while long sentences, if done badly, can often confuse readers, no matter how intelligent they are. Most of the people who read are intelligent and if they need to break their head in order to get the point of your sentence, the problem is not in a lousy reader, it’s in the bad sentence.
I have nothing against long sentences. I’m aware that you can always put a comma, take a breath and continue your long sentence without confusing your reader. There were, and there still are, skilled writers who could write beautiful, long sentences, but if these sentences are not carefully designed they turn into a big, fat pile of words which means nothing. That kind of writing can exhaust your reader and make her give up.
On the other hand, short sentences can give your prose a natural rhythm. Your writing will leave the impression of a conversation over a coffee table and thus enable your reader to enjoy your text and revisit it with pleasure.
Simple sentences and clear statements don’t make your writing shallow. Deep thoughts can indeed be discussed in short sentences as well as in long. It’s much easier to write a long and confusing sentence than a short and precise one.
While you write, you pick your thoughts from a huge cluster of thoughts which floats within your mind. These thoughts run much faster than your tongue does, and if you don’t filter them through your mouth they come out unclear and unfinished.
Although humans have developped different means of communication, we are species who primarily communicate via releasing air through our mouths. For millenniums, our ancestors exchanged information breath by breath and thus speaking is deeply engraved in our DNA.
Not long ago, we discovered writing. Writing is a great invention.
During the times when we could only spread the words from mouth to mouth, our messages were distorted and tweaked by each messenger.
Thanks to writing, we are able to communicate the exact message throughout space and generations. Yet, we still have to learn a lot about writing, especially when it comes to rhythm and the precision.
There were, and there still are, writers who mastered the craft but the rest of us still have a long road to walk.