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I have heard many times that you should always keep the sentence length to the minimum as possible, as it makes reading easy, fast and more important understandable to readers.

I'm wondering: What should be the ideal length threshold to follow for a sentence while writing a blog post?

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    A little tip about markdown: you need to hit Enter twice to get a paragraph. Or you need two spaces at the end of the line before hitting Enter once to get a soft linebreak. You can see the result in the little preview below the box where you type your post. And if you want to check out how others do something yo ucan click on the little "edit" link at the end of their post which will send you to the "suggest an edit" view where you can look at their markdown. For more information click here. – Secespitus Mar 19 at 9:40
  • Do you actually mean the length of the sentence in words, independent of the layout? Or do you by chance mean the number of characters in the line across the page? If the latter, answer = 75. – Oscar Bravo Mar 19 at 12:44
  • I mean # of words in a sentence particularly. – Prasad_Joshi Mar 19 at 13:47
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    Depending what you write about (e.g. literary versus informational), the structure might be more important than length. I usually quote "The Science of Scientific Writing" about that. – Pablo H Mar 20 at 11:48
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    @OscarBravo How did you come up with 75? A while ago I counted the number of characters per line used in novels and newspaper articles and concluded that the average was 100 including spaces. – CJ Dennis Mar 21 at 2:13
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Sentences should not be longer than 25 words, and ideal length is around 14 words.

The Inside GOV.UK blog cites research that finds that

when average sentence length is 14 words, readers understand more than 90% of what they’re reading. At 43 words, comprehension drops to less than 10%.

Studies also show that sentences of 11 words are considered easy to read, while those of 21 words are fairly difficult. At 25 words, sentences become difficult, and 29 words or longer, very difficult.

As a consequence, the GOV.UK style guide limits sentence length to 25 words.

The GOV.UK website needs to be accessible for everyone, so you might be tempted to think that when you write for a highly educated and intelligent audience you may allow yourself longer sentences, as @celtschk has recommended in their answer. But unless you publish academic research articles on your blog, that reasoning is wrong. As the cited blog post explains,

[l]ong sentences aren't just difficult for people who struggle with reading or have a cognitive disability like dyslexia or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. They're also a problem for highly literate people with extensive vocabularies.

This is partly because people tend to scan, not read. In fact, most people only read around 25% of what’s on a page. This means it’s important to get information across quickly.

[...]

Long, complicated sentences force users to slow down and work harder to understand what they’re reading. This isn’t something people want to do, even if they’re familiar with the subject or language you’re using.

It’s easy to assume this isn’t the case for highly literate readers or people considered experts. Yet the more educated a person is, and the more specialist their knowledge, the more they want it in plain English.

These people often have the least time and most to read. Which means they just want to understand your point and move on, quickly.

So, whoever your audience is, if you want your blog posts to be read, stick to the upper limit of 25 words and make most of your sentences around 14 words long.

In case you think that these lengths only apply online and that printed fiction generally has longer sentences, here are some average sentence lengths for you to consider:

  • Victor Hugo, Les Miserables: 15.56 words per sentence
  • Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: 18.38
  • Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice: 20.54
  • Arthur Conan Doyle, Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: 15.48
  • Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: 17.71
  • Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities: 17.66
  • James Joyce, Ulysses: 7.23
  • Herman Melville, Moby Dick: 21.32
  • Bram Stoker, Dracula: 16.52
  • Jane Austen, Sense & Sensibility: 23.15
  • Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities: 17.711
  • Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer: 14.568
  • J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit: 16.342
  • C.S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe: 15.175
  • J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone: 11.767
  • Stephenie Meyer, Twilight: 9.629

And while John Green's The Fault in Our Stars begins with the 52 word sentence cited by @DPT in their comment, it has an average sentence length of only 11.12091 words!


The above are recommendations for English. So how about other languages? For German, the Deutsche Presse Agentur, the largest press agency in Germany, sets the upper limit for optimal comprehension at 9 words and the absolute allowed maximum length at 30 words. The Bild Zeitung, Germany's largest tabloid newspaper, has an average sentence length of 12 words. Ludwig Reiners in his book on style sets the maximum length of easy to understand sentences at 18 words; Wilfried Seibicke, a linguist and specialist in stylistics, recommends an average of 10 to 15 words.

Given the similarity between the recommendations for English (an analytic language) and German (a fusional language), I would assume that other indoeuropean languages have similar ideal word lengths, while agglutinative (e.g. Turkic or Finnish) and polysynthetic languages, where sentences consist of very few very long words, will have other ideal lengths.

This answer, by the way, has an average sentence length of 20.8125 words (not counting the citations).


As requested, some statistics for John Green's The Fault in Our Stars (all values are sentence lengths in words):

N = 5763, M = 11.42, SD = 11.93, Mdn = 8, range = 1-160

That is, the average sentence is 11 words long; half of all sentences are 8 words long or shorter; 88% or 5089 of all sentences are between 1 and 23 words long. The modus (most frequent sentence length) lies at 3 words with 574 sentences. Here is a histogram illustrating the distribution:

Histogram of sentence lengths in John Green's "The Fault in our Stars"

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    Hmm... the Gov.uk cites two sources, one is a dead link. The other goes to a reproduction of an article from the "the Press Institute of India" which simply repeats assertions from other sources. I'm not sure that this information is really as solid as you are suggesting in your bolded assertion. It's probably good advice regardless but it does not seem to have the solid backing of research. – Jack Aidley Mar 19 at 14:32
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    It looks like the comprehension figures come from here - wyliecomm.com/2018/08/how-long-should-sentences-be - which claims an uncited American Press Institute study as its source. – Jack Aidley Mar 19 at 14:38
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    The sentence "So, whoever your audience is, if you want your blog posts to be read, stick to the limit of 25 words and make most of your sentences around 14 words long." is perfectly clear but is 31 words long. It is, ironically, a self-refuting sentence. – Mark Amery Mar 19 at 15:36
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    I'd love to see the numbers plus/minus dialog. Dialog snatches and dialog ending in a ? or ! followed by 'he cried.' or 'she asked.' seem as though they would pull the average downward rapidly. Narrative heavy books I'd expect to have higher averages. – DPT Mar 19 at 16:04
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    @DPT So would I. – user37351 Mar 19 at 16:14
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Each sentence must be exactly as long as it need be; never longer.

Sentences establish the rhythm of your writing. Sentence construction -- length, rhythm, variation, and rhyme -- are the tools that align writing and oratorical style.

A blog post is a short experience. You tease ideas. You dip a reader's mind into your logic and hope to bring them back for a fuller reveal.

Writing must be interesting. You must get attention. You must gnarl expectations leaving a twisted discomfort that only more of your ideas can relax. Draw your reader into a conceptual labyrinth, drawn by the promise of a Minotaur-like concept that kills your stagnant processes and eats your quivering misconceptions. Show them that better life waits ahead. Just click.

Readers will follow your link to reveal the greater message.

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    ah, this answer really needs a link at the end. I would have clicked it. – Segfault Mar 20 at 16:20
  • Very nice, answer by example. I would read more! – forgivenson Mar 21 at 14:12
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It depends on your intended audience.

If your audience is literature professors, then you can use pretty long and complex sentences, as long as you make sure that they are reasonably well-written. Indeed, those professors probably will get quite annoyed if all your sentences are too short and simple.

You write for high school dropouts? Prefer short and simple sentences. Complex sentences challenge them.

Of course the two examples above are extremes. But the basic point is, adapt to your audience.

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    The questions asks about ideal sentence length. You recommend "short and simple", but you don't answer the question about length. What is "short"? A sentence with less than 40 words? A sentence with no more than one subordinate clause? And what is "simple"? A sentence written in Simple English? A sentence with no passive voice? A sentence with no technical terms? You really don't give an answer to the question at all. – user37351 Mar 19 at 12:43
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    @user10915156 The 2nd paragraph is "medium to long" sentences, the 3rd paragraph is "short". The answer is there, just in a slightly subtle way. – Tim B Mar 19 at 13:34
  • @TimB No. How many words is "short"? Five? Ten? Fifteen? How many words is "medium to long"? Sentences can run several pages in some novels, so are a 100 words still short? Or are thirty words already long? Words like "short" and "long" are extremely vague. So while this answer does recommend that sentences can be longer for trained readers, it doesn't tell us which length is ideal, which is what the question asks. – user37351 Mar 19 at 14:19
  • @user10915156 It's not possible to be as formulaic as that. Shorter is better for easy comprehension, but depending on the complexity of the subject your 'short' sentences may be longer than the 'long' sentences of a simpler subject. A short explanation of how to make toast will be markedly different in length from a short explanation of the offside rule. – Ynneadwraith Mar 19 at 15:55
  • @Ynneadwraith Of course. – user37351 Mar 19 at 15:58
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Hi Prasad_Joshi and welcome!

You have a lot of good (technical and detailed) answers here so I won't add too much. All I'll say is be careful of being too prescriptive with your writing.

Repeated short sentences can sound staccato. Sentences that are laboriously long can lose the reader's attention and become difficult to untangle. Repeated sentences constructed to be exactly X number of words can sound monotone.

The secret to engaging writing is to mix things up a bit. If you write a long sentence, follow it with a short one to give the reader a moment to catch their breath. If you've had to use a series of long sentences to get a point across, tease out the crucial point and let it stand alone. Large paragraph breaks give the reader time to pause and teased out sentences can add clarity. Like this:

"The secret to engaging writing is to mix things up a bit."

Then read it all aloud and make sure it flows with a kind of musicality. If you can't get the words out of your mouth without stumbling, it's likely the reader will stumble over it, too.

Good luck with your blogs!

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There is no specific rule about how many words should be there in a easy sentence. As long as the words used are not too complex, not repeating, and are delivering the message clearly, the sentence could be as long as 20 to 40 words (1-2 lines).
Focus more on the grammar and punctuation, as they have to be correct for the content to be easily understandable.
(I'm considering that the audience of your blog is common public.)

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    "As long as the words used are not complex, not repeating, and are delivering the message clearly, the sentence could be as long as 20 to 40 words (1-2 lines)." For comparison, that sentence is 30 words long, if you count the "1-2" as one word. :-) – a CVn Mar 19 at 8:53
  • @aCVn Hah, right :D – Bella Swan Mar 19 at 9:58
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In general, writing for the web is expected to be shorter, with briefer sentences, paragraphs, and sections.

I have found PlainLanguage.gov's guidelines extremely helpful. (I linked to the "be concise" section.)

I also really like NNGroup's articles about User Experience design (they used to be "useit.com", which made their focus on usability very clear.) https://www.nngroup.com/topic/writing-web/ is the most relevant category. Some specific articles:

The F-Shaped Scanning Pattern shows how users scan online, especially when they're not sure if they're invested in your material yet.

The Inverted Pyramid - start with your most relevant/important content at the start, instead of leading up to it. an excerpt...

  1. Identify your key points. What piece of information is the key fact you want your readers to know, even if they only read a single paragraph or sentence on the page? What effectively summarizes all the information that will follow?
  2. Rank secondary information. Outline the story details and supporting information, prioritizing the information that is most likely to be of interest to the broadest audience, and moving down the list to the smaller and more nuanced details.
  3. Write well and concisely. The structure only helps readers if the content is strong. Cut unnecessary information. Get to the point quickly. Use straightforward language. Use short paragraphs and bulleted lists.
  4. Frontload all elements of content with important information. The main headline should be descriptive. The story should start with the main point. Each heading or subheading should be descriptive. The first sentence of every paragraph should be the most important. The first words in each sentence should be information-carrying and indicate what content will follow.

Plan Language is for Everyone, Even Experts.

If you think clearly, you will express yourself clearly. Your audience wants easy-to-read content that allows them to get the gist of the message efficiently. No one has ever complained that a text was too easy to understand.

Writing for Lower Literacy Users (which may be 30% of your readers!) Basically, they do NOT scan/skim, but they still want the inverted-pyramid -- most important information first.)

Again, different blogs have different goals and audiences, but on the whole, simpler seems to be better. Still include as much information as is relevant, and vary sentences and everything for stylistic choices and to stay true to your own writing voice. But recognize the audiences may be less patient than you'd wish; simplicity seems to be the current ideal.


  • For example, my style tends to be long, but with what I hope are useful links. I don't think I can ask a concise yet useful question as you have done, @Prasad_Josi! – April Mar 19 at 17:40
  • Thank you @cincodenada! – April Mar 20 at 13:12
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Generally, a sentence in writing should be 10 words or less with 7 WoL being your goal. You can have longer sentences, but if you do, they should be used sparingly or with good reason (such as an excerpt of purple prose for your readers). Longer sentences add more information and more information creates more opportunity to be unclear or confusing. As with all things in writing: just be careful how you do it.

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    Do you have a source for your 7-10 word suggestion? – April Mar 19 at 17:40
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    For reference: the four sentences in that answer have 17, 28, 16, and 13 words resp.. Every one exceeds the rule, most very significantly! (Perhaps that indicates how much credence to give it?) – gidds Mar 19 at 20:59
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    @April, a father who is an English teacher. Aside from that anecdotal bit of evidence, no I don't. It's just what I have noticed when writing with clear intent. – Sora Tamashii Mar 20 at 1:19
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    @gidds The reason why I wasn't following the rule is simple: I didn't care enough for an SE answer. I take that rule fairly seriously when I should, though. If desired, I'll respond to you only in that rule. – Sora Tamashii Mar 20 at 1:24
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TLDR: The shorter the better.

Long version: Respect people's time. Say what you need to say. Be as concise as possible.

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    I think removing "TLDR" and "Long version" would improve this answer. – wizzwizz4 Mar 19 at 17:33
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    @wizzwizz4: It is just my sense of humor. Clearly in this case, both sections are short... But having a TLDR section that succinctly summarizes the rest of the article does invite people to read the rest of it. – ashleylee Mar 19 at 17:52

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