Limit The Length Of Sentences For Better Comprehension


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.


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.

Sentence Design

If a sentence is basic, compound, or complex, it needs to be grammatically accurate, well-organized, understandable, intriguing, and suitable for the target audience.  In most cases, a writer should work towards clear-cut simplicity. For the majority of professional audiences, scholars of French translation in Denver claim that clearness and conciseness are valued more heavily than literary style. The subsequent recommendations can assist writers in attaining these features.

Avoid Long Sentences

Lengthy sentences are generally more difficult to comprehend than shorter sentences due to the fact that they are stuffed with details and facts that need to be immediately consumed. Nearly all professional writing should be limited to an average sentence size of 20 words or less. Seasoned veterans of Russian Translation in Chicago suggest that this number is just an average, not an upper limit. In order to be appealing, your composition ought to include a combination of longer and shorter sentences.

Lengthy sentences are ideal for grouping or combining, itemizing points, and reviewing or previewing information and facts. Moderate-size sentences (approximately 20 words in length) are useful with respect to articulating the interactions between ideas and concepts. And short sentences are tailor made for highlighting details.

Depend on the active voice

Active sentences are usually preferred over passive sentences simply because they are less difficult to comprehend. The subject appears before the verb, and the object of the sentence follows it: “Ruben leased the workspace.” Any time the sentence is passive, the subject comes after the verb and the object comes before it: “The workspace was leased by Ruben.” Perhaps you have realized that the passive verb includes the helping verb to be with a form of the verb that is generally related to the past tense. The application of passive verbs causes sentences to be lengthier and de-emphasizes the subject. Active verbs generate smaller, more robust sentences:

 Steer clear of Passive Sentences Utilize Active Sentences
 Revenue grew by 34 percent over the previous month.  Revenue grew by 34 percent last month.
 The latest process is believed by the director to be the best.  The director believes the latest process is best.

Nevertheless, making use of the passive voice is a good idea in certain scenarios. One example, a Milwaukee translator indicates that when you would like to be diplomatic in talking about a concern or an oversight of a certain type, you could state, “The cargo never arrived” as instead of “Your firm lost the cargo.” In such an instance, the passive variant feels less like an allegation; the focus is on the dilemma of the missing cargo as opposed to the individual or company liable for the loss. In the same manner, if you would like to highlight what is happening instead of placing credit or the blame, you could state something such as “The manufacturing line is undergoing an analysis to ascertain the cause of this predicament.” Additionally, passive verbs are helpful when you are attempting to prevent personal pronouns and establish an objective mood. To illustrate, in a business analysis, you could suggest, “Standards were developed for analyzing capital investments.”