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Sentence and section length

How long should my sentences and sections be?

To ensure your entire paper can be easily read and understood, pay attention to your text at the sentence and section level.

Your average sentence length is often a proxy for how much information is conveyed in each of your sentences. Many researchers make the mistake of writing very long sentences that give a lot of information. However, a widely shared view in academic writing is that each sentence should convey no more than one main idea or argument. If a sentence conveys more than that, it is best to split it into shorter, separate sentences. This will make it easier for the reader to follow your arguments.

Furthermore, a lot of grammatical or syntax errors occur when multiple clauses and sub-clauses are strung together. Avoiding long sentences helps to minimize language mistakes, and reduces the potential for misunderstanding. This is especially true if English is not your first language.

If your sentence has too many commas, also consider breaking it into separate sentences. If this is not possible, consider using other punctuation such as semicolons (if your sentence features two clauses), or em-dashes (—) if you are adding non-essential information.

It is often recommended that sentences should be between 10 and 25 words in length, but this is a rule of thumb. Probably the most important thing is that no more than one idea is conveyed per sentence.

More tips on length and conciseness

At the section level, we suggest you read our tips on how long your title, Abstract, Introduction, and Conclusion should be.

You can also read our tips for concise writing here, here, and here.