Spacing and Sentence Length: Does it matter?

Probably because I read too much, or too carefully, analyzing a person’s use of spacing and sentence length has become a hobby of mine.  How people present their words and the length of their sentences changes the over all feel of the writing style.  Of course things like word choice and punctuation can also alter the feel of a piece, but the spacing is vitally important.

For example, the spacing here on my blog is worlds different from the spacing I use in my fiction.  Most of the sentences here average about 20 words or so.  In fiction, I use shorter sentences.  It gives my work a more immediate tone.  The actions seem sharper and harder, which is my goal.

Visual line space, namely using paragraph breaks, gives weight to the writing.  A new paragraph is visually a new moment.  The fraction of a second that it takes your eyes to move from one line to next enhances the reading in some way; usually, when I’m reading I notice that paragraph breaks give me a pause in my mind.  It’s a fraction of a second to leave the reader hanging before bringing them back in.

The medium of a text has different spacing too.  Like I stated, my blog is spaced different than my fiction.  Novels, magazines, and newspapers would strike a reader as odd if presented with the spacing that’s used here.  For example, think of an action scene (like a fight scene) in a novel.  The action between two characters is likely all going to be in one paragraph.  The next break is a shift in the action.  That pause gives the reader that fraction of a second hesitation.

Likewise, sentence length has the same effect.  Long sentences, to me, weigh down writing in action scenes, humorous exchanges, and dialogue.  The shorter, cut to the point, kind of sentences make the actions, jokes, and lines flow better.  Shorter sentences give a piece a more direct overall tone.  Longer sentences are great with writers that have a prosey tone to their work.  They’re great for sex scenes too; longer sentences can drag out an emotion.  But as always, the line between not enough and too much needs to be kept in mind!

So, do ya’ll think about how your work is spaced or the length of your sentences?  Does it change how you write different scenes?


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. onecoolsoul
    Jul 09, 2011 @ 05:47:36

    Sentence length does have an effect on the pacing of the story and the readability of the story as well. Just thought I would let you know that I linked your blog to my blog as well Jana. Have a wonderful day.


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