How to Shorten and Strengthen Your Sentences When Writing for the Web

Most web writers are aware of the very limited window of opportunity available to grab their reader’s attention. Web readers are both busy and fickle, and they average reader spends less than ten seconds determining whether or not they will continue reading or move on to another site. Should you have mastered the art of amazing and compelling titles and headings, congratulations—this is the first step in ensuring your reader stays firmly on your page reading your words. After the titles and headings, however, you have to keep your reader’s attention through the use of short, snappy sentences which pack a punch. There are several ways to strengthen each and every sentence you write, keeping them to a minimum length while still ensuring your message gets across.

Avoiding Jargon

If you are not clear what “jargon” really means, it is generally the specialized or technical language used by members in a specific profession. While using jargon may, at first glance, give your readers the impression that you are an expert in your field, many times those same words will muddy up the meaning of your sentence rather than clarifying it. When web readers are scanning a page quickly, looking out for key words or phrases, they may decide your article is simply too difficult to read should they encounter obscure terms. Determine whether your readers will understand your jargon, or if they really need to know insider terminology. Jargon can also be unfriendly to many readers, and you certainly want to avoid appearing snobbish or unfriendly in your writing. Read your content critically, and replace anything that smacks of jargon with a simpler word or phrase, or one that is more common. If you must use jargon, make sure you explain the meaning to your readers, perhaps through the use of an analogy.

Remove Redundant Phrases

When you read over your content you may notice many common or redundant words and phrases that can be replaced with words which are just as familiar but are also shorter and potentially more direct. You must make sure that the shorter option doesn’t cause confusion, however most of us have the tendency to clutter our writing. Redundancy as defined in the dictionary is the superfluous repetition or overlapping of words and should always be avoided in the interest of clear communication with your reader. Focusing on the substance of what you want to impart to your readers is your primary goal.

Starting Strong and Staying Strong

Just as you learned in your high school English class, begin all sentences with the strongest subjects or verbs. Tell your readers who is acting and what he or she is doing. This technique puts the very most important words of the sentence right out front—instead of saying “There is no charge for the service,” replace that sentence with “The service if free.” You’ve said the same thing, but the second sentence is much stronger, shorter and just as clear. Using verbs that are weak or indirect can easily dilute the strength of your sentence and of your message, so use more direct verbs. Finally, clear out any “deadwood” meaning words or phrases which can be omitted with no loss in overall meaning. Adding such words as “as a matter of fact,” serve no real purpose other than increasing your word count, so ensure your sentences are tight and compelling.


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