An 11-Word Average
Today's Snack: Let's make a trail mix
with 11 ingredients! Try mixing (1) peanuts, (2) almonds, (3) pecans, (4)
walnuts, (5) sunflower seeds, (6) coconut flakes, (7) raisins, (8) dried
cranberries, (9) dried cherries, (10) chocolate chips and (11) mini
marshmallows. Pack in containers for individual servings, and wash down with 11
sips of water.
A book (not a poem)
that you think is well-written, easy
to read, and has good rhythm
Piece of lined writing paper and No.
Good writing has
boundaries. And boundaries are good. Without the sides of a river, a river
isn't a river. Without the shore of a lake, it doesn't hold shape.
It's the same thing with
writing. It needs to be controlled and limited in order to be functional.
here's a general boundary rule:
An average sentence length of 11
words is the most readable.
doesn't mean every sentence has to have 11 words. It just means an AVERAGE word
count, per sentence, of 11 words, is best.
back and count the words in that underlined, boldfaced sentence. How many words
in it? Eleven! So there you go.
11? It's probably because the average sentence spoken aloud is around 11 words,
according to research on people's speech patterns. Written communication is
best when it mimics speech communication.
check that out for yourself, listen to people having a conversation. Do they
speak in long, drawn-out, complex sentences, with 30 or 40 words? Heck, no!
They speak in short bursts, for the most part. So . . . write that way.
then you run the risk of choppy text. When people read what you write, they
won't feel any "flow."
you write sentence after sentence that is simple and has just one clause
(subject - verb - object . . . as in . . . The dog - ran after - the ball. The
ball bounced down the stairs. The girl ran after the ball. . . ) it's going to
be TOO rhythmic and TOO similar. Booooooorrrrrrrring!
need to have a few short sentences, and then a long one, followed by maybe
another short one, and then a medium one, then maybe a question and answer,
then a long one . . . just as a painting has different brush strokes, a piece
of writing should have different sentence lengths to give people the full
in both sentence length and sentence structure will help you make your writing
more readable and enjoyable.
writers mix it up. They have all different sentence formats and sentence
lengths, big words and small, all mixed together like a great, big salad of
meaning that's attractive because it has that magic ingredient: variety.
Now let's check this out
for ourselves. Do this alone or in a group.
Take one page from a book
that you like. In light pencil in the margins, write down the word count of
each sentence on that page. Then add them up, divide by the number of sentences
you checked, and come up with an average.
How close or far is it
from the 11-word average that's said to be good?
Go back now and tally up
how many one-syllable, two-syllable, three-syllable, and four-plus syllable
words that author used.
You might be surprised by
the percentages; good authors tend to use long words sparingly, but when they
do use them, they're very effective.
Now, on a fresh piece of
paper, write a story, and have the number "11" in it, in some way. Maybe it
could be a story about 11 football players on a team . . . or how you're
feeling when it's 11 days to your birthday party . . . or all about the 11
reasons you love your dog or cat.
Pay particular attention
to varying your sentence length.
When you're finished, go
back and count the words in your sentences. Figure out your average. How close
are you to 11? Try this again in a month, and see if you've improved.