*|FNAME|*, when I first started my current full-time job…
(not this copywriting gig I’m crushing on the side…)
I was frustrated by a co-worker’s “Google Chat” methods.
instead of sending a complete thought,
he would type out a few words,
type a bit more,
As a recipient, I wanted to reach through the screen and shake his neck a bit. (Just a bit)
It wasn’t until, years later, I learned more about copywriting (and business writing) that I understood—
giving people (and ideas) a bit of space actually led to better understanding,
and better communication.
Paragraphs are great in a book, good in an article…
But a wall of text is intimidating!
We can act all edumacated. We can pretend to prefer dense paragraphs of logic and sesquipedalian* prose. And sure, sometimes we like to think deeply.
In reality, walls of text suck.
Readers have to stop and think about what they’re reading. The message isn’t clear, and we (as persuaders) are harmed when our message is difficult to understand.
(Quick aside — I’ve been in conversations where I accuse The Atlantic of trying too hard, and the other side says, “What, you think you’re a better writer than The Atlantic?” and my only answer can be, “Yes, if I can clearly share an idea, which this author cannot.”)
Anyways, short sentences are best.
They convey a single idea.
They’re bite-sized. Easily digestible.
Our readers (or listeners) aren’t distracted with the complexity of the message, aren’t pulled away with other thoughts, aren’t frustrated and giving up.
Using complex sentences might signal to others that I’m smart and hey so are you for reading.
But with that signalling, you’re cutting yourself off from a large number of readers that might want to read what you have to write… if only you could do it clearly.
Clear and persuasive writing has nothing to do with how we feel. It’s all about how we can make the reader feel.
And making readers feel dumb is about the worst outcome we can hope for…
(unless they already agree with us, in which case they’ll act smart and recommit to their confirmed beliefs).
Give your writing some space, and it doesn’t hurt to change up the overall visual. If a paragraph makes sense, use it. Just don’t completely rely on them to transmit your ideas, because you’re working against your own interests.
…and the interests of your readers.
*PS That word ‘sesquipedalian’ was on the gas pump’s video screen Word of the Day this past Monday. Thanks, Gas Pump!