As an editor and reviewer, I have a few pet peeves related to academic writing.
One of my main pet peeves is this:
Authors who use the same sentence length throughout their writing.
Seriously, academic writers: varying sentence length improves your writing.
I hate reading papers that consist of paragraph-long sentences. These papers make me feel like I’m 15 years old again and am in secondary school, chewing my way through Ceasar’s de bello gallico. Caesar had a knack for writing sentences that are very long – but he is Julius Caesar and he could do this. As an academic writer, you should not write like Caesar.
At the same time, some people write only short sentences. I did this. Then I did this. I found something. I report it here. You get the idea of what I’m getting at: very short sentences make your reading experience feel very chopped up.
The key to writing that flows, is to vary your sentence length. Today, I’d like to teach you exactly how to do this. To get to a balance in sentence length in your writing, you can try the following:
- Write a first draft of your text. Use sentences that are as short as possible – for many of us, this practice is a challenge because we associate long, lofty sentences with Serious Academic Writing. So, start with short sentences.
- When you revise your writing, vary the sentence length.
- Make sure all your sentences connect back and forth.
- Make sure all your paragraphs connect back and forth.
Have you focused on varying your sentence length? Have you tried this exercise? Let me know what you learned from this exercise and practice in the comments below!