Limit The Length Of Sentences For Better Comprehension

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Over the past three decades, a great amount of research has been conducted by Washington D.C. translation services workers, interpreters and professors of linguistics to uncover strategies that make writing more readable and oral presentations more understandable.  Among the topics researched most heavily are those that involve clarity and conciseness.  The major implications drawn from the research typically suggested that sentences should be short and writers should use words that are familiar to the target audience.   By following this advice, the content will be more easily understood by non-native speakers and it will also be easier to translate into foreign languages.  In the next few blog entries, St. Louis Spanish translation workers will focus on these recommendations that include limiting the length of sentences, making use of terminology that is widely known, cutting out unnecessary terms and incorporating action into sentences.

Restricting the Length of Sentences

Recently French translators in Baltimore discussed translation and evaluating sentence efficiency.  In their presentation they indicated that while translating they always try to evaluate sentences to determine if they can convey the same thought in the least amount of words possible.  Consider these two sentences:

  1. The power cord connected to the new computer isn’t long enough to reach the outlet.
  2. The new computer’s power cord is too short to reach the outlet.

Both sentences are short.  The first sentence contains 16 words and the second sentence contains 13 words. However, the second sentence conveys the same meaning with 3 fewer words.  Only 13 words are needed to communicate the information to the reader.

Examine the following sentence:

The magazine writers reported that the 2 door Honda Accord sedan provided a smooth ride.

This sentence contains 15 words, but can the same idea be conveyed using fewer words?

  • The 2-door Honda Accord offered a smooth ride to the magazine writers.
  • The 2-door Accord offered a smooth ride

While there are probably better ways to rewrite the original sentence, the two alternatives contain fewer words and provided the same information.  The alternatives were far better in communicating the thought.

long-sentence

So when is a sentence too long?

Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this question.  The answer really depends on how well the sentence is composed, received and understood by the intended audience.

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