October 14, 2014

Easy Tip For Immediately Writing Better

Proust manuscript for A l'Ombre des Jeunes Filles en Fleurs
A teacher once said it was interesting to have Proust, known to suffer from
asthma, write sentences that were pages long.
In my years working in the business world, I've had my share of editing technical papers, letters,

reports and such. One thing that caught my attention is that, the more important a person believes he/she is, the more likely that person is to want to impress others by showing off.

This showing off usually entails, when writing, long words, technical jargon, and run-on sentences a la Proust (and I admit that I too have been guilty on many occasions of the latter).

And here's where my tip comes in:

Don't be afraid to write shorter sentences.

They don't make you sound juvenile or, horror of horrors, dumb. In fact, quite the opposite: They allow you to convey your thoughts clearly and concisely, which the reader will always appreciate more than the head scratching and "huh?" that usually accompany never-ending descriptions.

That's it. Seriously! If you do just that, your writing will already greatly improve.

This is tip is mostly for those who aren't going for poetical lyricism, of course, though one doesn't preclude the other.


  1. Totally agree. I teach a "W" course and one of the first things I tell the students is that short, simple sentences are best for technical writing. Faulkneresque sentences that span several pages are fine in literature (not that I think Faulkner considered himself important). I do not know much about Proust; couldn't get through.

  2. The comment that I have just published sounds as if I were denigrating Proust. Definitely not - I am just a product of English-centric education, so I had read Faulkner instead of Proust and Dickens (yikes) instead of Flaubert. I was lucky to read Stendhal, though.

    1. I would never imagine you denigrating any writer! :) I haven't ever read a full book by Proust, but neither have I read any Faulkner, but I've read books from every other author mentioned here ^.^
      I have found shorter sentences are generally better even in in non-technical writing, at least nowadays. It's like math, isn't it? Take a complex problem and break it down into smaller, more manageable pieces :)

  3. THANK YOU! I've noticed I have a tendency to get wordy when simple sentences could just as easily convey the same complex idea. Nailed it.

    1. You're welcome! I also find that being able to break down complex ideas into easier terms helps a lot when communicating with others, especially if one doesn't want people to give up on the reading :)