Sentence Structure And Your Target Reader

I think every author tells herself that it’s okay to make the reader work for meaning now and again. It may even be true, but I’m going to advise that you don’t make your reader parse too many sentences. My husband and I are translating some family documents, and let me tell you I really wish my ancestors had sometimes written only in bullet points. Convoluted sentences may be accepted in every language, but I as a reader have to really love the author to throw myself into deciphering mode. Not only does it take me out of the story, if I don’t think the prize was worth the effort I’m less likely to make the attempt a second time.

That is why you have to know your target reader well. If you think your thirty-word passage is brilliant but your reader thinks she could have said the same thing in five words, have you really succeeded? Some authors can count on their readers to savor every syllable of every sentence. I’m pretty sure mine won’t, although they could be enticed to linger on something clever and amusing. Whatever your genre, whatever your topic, learn what your readers want, expect, and enjoy. If they like page-long sentences with multiple self-negating clauses, go for it. Otherwise, stick to bullet points.

Luck and wisdom!

Author: Lani Longshore

Quilter, writer, chocoholic, black belt (karate), killer of houseplants, reader of maps (and I still get lost)

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