In a recent e-newsletter, Ann Wylie (www.wyliecomm.com) said that according to research by the American Press Institute, the longer sentences are, the less readers understand. I haven’t managed to find the original source of this research, but it was apparently based on studies of 410 newspapers, and the researchers correlated the average number of words in a sentence with reader comprehension.
The study showed:
- When the average sentence length was fewer than eight words, readers understood 100 percent of the story.
- With 9–14 word sentences, readers could understand more than 90 percent of the information.
- With 43-word sentences, comprehension dropped to less than 10 percent.
Pity this information didn’t include the comprehension rate for sentences of 15–30 words.
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