The approach to writing press releases, case studies and feature articles is generally a subjective one where factors such as the subject matter, the target audience or the level of complexity can all bring about many different distinctions in writing style. However, it’s important to maintain a certain level of continuity with any written content that you produce, and there are certain rules that can help with this.
One of the best ways to achieve continuity is to ensure consistency of sentence structure and pace. All sentences have two parts; a subject and a predicate, yet the structure and pace of sentences will differ depending on the audience. Those who advocate long, elaborate sentences are often under the misconception that good quality writing demands sophisticated language, which in turn requires length and adjectives. Apply this to an article aimed at a technical audience, however, and you will often find that it simply doesn’t engage the reader at all.
For a technology-based readership, clear and concise sentences that use efficient and accurate language are preferable. Over-long sentences littered with commas and/or hyphens will only appear clumsy to readers generally unaccustomed to drawing breath between full stops.
Semi-colons can sometimes be useful though. The semi-colon represents a break within a sentence that is stronger than a comma. It enables the writer to avoid over use of the comma yet preserves the finality of the full stop. A good tip is to read sentences out loud to hear their rhythm as this helps to put punctuation in the right place.
Naturally it’s important to make sure that the chosen verbs match the subject. Good diction in terms of avoiding obscure or generic words will also pay dividends. Finally, avoid fragments at all costs (i.e. sentences that are missing either a subject or a predicate).
When finished, read the entire piece through, or better still, get someone else to read it. If it can be read effortlessly, without difficulty, back-tracking or any kind of brow furrowing, you’ve likely done a pretty good job.
Do you have any thoughts, tips or suggestions about sentence structure or pace? Feel free to share them in the comments section below.