RedPen Editing
Variety – the Spice of Life

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Your choice of language, and how you construct sentences, and then how you put your paragraphs together, determine the pace of your piece.

Tiresome StudiesA story with sentences of very similar length, and with paragraphs of similar size, may lull your reader to sleep.

If you are writing a bedtime story, excellent! If not, inject some pace or risk boring your reader.


Looking at your story or chapter as a whole, is there a good mix of exposition and dialogue?

TIP: Highlight all text within dialogue – all words between the opening and closing quote marks.  

How does it look? Patches of dialogue can break up large tracts of exposition.

Focus in now, on individual paragraphs. Within each paragraph, only one topic or theme should be presented.

  • If you need to start describing something different, start a new paragraph.
  • If somebody different starts talking, start a new paragraph.

The paragraph break indicates to the reader that it’s time to stop and to reflect,  before moving on to the next topic/theme.

TIP: Having established what should, or should not be, within a paragraph, count how many lines the paragraph needs.  

The length of a paragraph is determined by two things:

  • The number of sentences
  • The number of words within each sentence

John Krone provides an interesting insight into the benefits of writing shorter sentences. He recommends that the first and last sentences in any paragraph should be shorter than the others – and that paragraphs should be four or five lines long.

Within each paragraph, there will be two or more sentences. For each sentence, how many words have you used?  The average sentence length is a recognised measure of readability. According to John Krone, the average number of words in a sentence is 17 while readers would prefer only 8!

Variety is also achievable at word level.

  • How many syllables are there in each word?
  • What’s your average?
  • What’s the reading age needed to understand your piece?

TIP: There are free online sites offering a readability score for your text.

This is the report on this article:

Readability report

Acknowledgment: © Vitaly Titov & Maria Sidelnikova | – Tiresome Studies