I am working on a fantasy language and wondering how I could write like the Tao Te Ching, short meaningful poetic sentences which are easy to grasp and visualize. In English we have the tendency to write long sentences, with several commas, like what I'm doing right now.

But perhaps in Chinese, sometimes, sentences are simpler. They are short. Concise. Meaningful. Packed with a punch. What rules can I go by to write more like that? Then in theory I can take those learnings and apply it to the fantasy language writing style (unrelated to this post).

  • How do you cut out extraneous stuff, and keep things short sentences, without sounding choppy?
  • How short do you want to aim for the sentences to be? I.e. what is included in the standard sentences (and what is included in the most complex sentences which you can still make simple somehow?)
  • When do you repeat yourself? Because you will need to repeat yourself. If your sentences are short. Sometimes.
  • How short is too short (roughly speaking)? How long is too long? How can you learn to get a sense for that?

Basically, what are some general principles to go by to write short? In English for now.

1 Answer 1


While I haven’t found many of the sentences in the Tao Te Ching to be easy to grasp, that is probably beyond the point.

Series of short sentences will always sound choppy. You can mitigate the choppy quality by using euphonious phrases. The best method to learn how to do is to speak your phrases aloud.

English easily accommodates short sentences. Focus on simple subjects and objects. Avoid complex clauses. They aren’t needed. Eliminate extraneous detail. Avoid unnecessary modifiers. Embrace less is more. Accept that it is hard to be brief. Enjoy the effort. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t accept first drafts. Revise and revise until it is what you want.

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