While randomly browsing, i noticed fiction writings contain much more comas in their sentences as lets say sentences in chats or instruction leaflets.

just for contrast

  • simple sentence: i live in mülheim.

  • complex sentence: I live, if it is not a misleading expression, in a town, known as mülheim to the outsiders, a world of its own, freed from the logic of the known reality found on paper and within sane mens wiring, where fountains paint stars at night, and drunk women become reborn virgins in the morning

  • 1
    This varies wildly according to style, situation, and intended audience, and also just to keep up variety between adjacent sentences. There's no "average" that's meaningful. Find a style that works for you; get feedback on whether it's readable and whether it's engaging. Asking for "average information in a sentence" is as meaningless as asking "how nice are things, on average?".
    – Standback
    Commented Nov 5, 2014 at 8:56
  • The commas are optional.
    – A E
    Commented Nov 5, 2014 at 11:37

4 Answers 4


Determining how much, and what information you pass through your sentences is a very important subliminal channel of information about the speaker, their character, current situation and mood.

If you merely use it to optimize readability, you will crop a lot of flavour of the text just in order to pass verbatim data. It's like you took a painting and tried to determine which contrast settings make it most readable. Of course pulling the contrast way up, making all detail stand out sharply will make the painting very readable. It will also murder any dreamy atmosphere, tricks of light or moods it conveys. You optimize for information and kill all the feelings.

Think from perspective of the speaker, how would they convey their impressions. A battle-hardened, disciplined soldier will use terse, precise report-style sentences conveying facts, but not impressions. A romantic lady will use florid metaphors and concentrate on impressions. A person suffering from depression will focus on dreary aspects. A child will express awe and sometimes use similes that seem outright bizarre. A person tired will use short, succint sequences. A bore with big ego will extend bare scraps of actual information with endless pleonasms. A person with passion will express that passion, delving into fascinating, little known details.

Do not aim at optimizing readability. Aim at expressing the character.


"How much information" does not lend itself to quantification. That aside, readability is not a function only of the amount of information compressed into a given sentence. Factors include the writing style, the particular scene, the pace of the story at the time the sentence is written, the surrounding text, the nature of the event (brief or elongated), etc.

Both of your sentences with some grammatical corrections are appropriate for different scenarios -- and even, perhaps, within the same story.

  • 2
    Agreed. As well, what is most important is not how much information is conveyed, but that it is the information necessary to the reader.
    – lea
    Commented Nov 5, 2014 at 7:47

A world building genre like fantasy and science fiction will often benefit from generally longer, more descriptive sentences (up to a few lines long), whereas more "down to Earth" genres like drama might benefit from less. That being said, it greatly depends on the expectations and style of the narrative being told.

You might write sentences no longer than 1-2 lines and still convey a great deal of information by simply separating them out. If we take your example:

I live, if it is not a misleading expression, in a town known as Mülheim to the outsiders. It is a world of its own, free from the logic of the known reality found on paper and within sane mens wiring. Fountains paint stars at night and drunk women become reborn virgins in the morning.

It's the same information but written in 3 sentences and perhaps more digestible to certain readers and writers. I prefer shorter sentences to the long, ongoing sentences myself but others may prefer the opposite.

An example of my preference goes as follows:

Rays of golden sunlight filtered through the translucent, dry surface of a leaf, held aloft by the hand of a small girl. With eyes focused on the veins of the leaf, she spun it in her fingers as she lay on the soft, green grass under the oak tree in the backyard.

These are two quite descriptive sentences, but two, not one. They are two different parts to the introductory paragraph, though both contribute to the setting up of the scene.

In this way, you give the reader a chance to reflect on what they've just read before moving onto the next part of the description (or in this case, the action).


This depends purely on the writing style you are going for. In general, it is usually a good idea to avoid superfluous descriptions of things which have no bearing on the actual story.

You should give the reader just enough information to understand what is going on. For example, if you are in someone's home, you wouldn't describe each and every object in the room if it didn't have any real significance. It would be better to describe the room more generally to give the reader the impression about the kind of person that lives there. You could pick on key points like if the objects appeared old and dusty and the pictures on the wall were crooked. You could also pull in points such as odors.

The carpet was old and stained and there was a strong odor of cat urine emanating from the couch.

That description gives a clear understanding to the reader that the owner doesn't maintain their home very well. This is a much better device than calling someone a slob.

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