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How To Write Shorter Sentences?

Discussion in 'Blogging & Content Marketing' started by Joe F, Sep 7, 2016.

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  1. So the Yoast SEO plugin downgrades content with too many sentences that are over 10 words. (16 words).

    Some of my writing clients want the green light under the readability section of Yoast SEO. (16 words).

    However, a lot of my sentences are on the longer side. (11 words)

    Any tips on writing shorter sentences? (6 words) Without sounding too abrupt. (4 words) While also maintaining some flow. (4 words)

    I know we are writing for the web and low attention span readers. (13 words) But nearly all the books I read have very long sentences. (11 words) I do prefer them. (4 words)

    Any tips?
  2. My initial response to someone making that request would be to drop the client. Granted, that might not be the smartest move haha :)

    A sentence should be as long as it needs to be. If a sentence needs more than sixteen words, use more than sixteen words. You aren't writing morse code.

    This reminds me of years ago when clients were always telling me to reduce the keyword density etc. They didn't care if it made the article unreadable. All they cared about was hitting that keyword density.

    My advice is to write a good article. No software, even SEO software, should dictate how you write. That is a slippery slope.

    Yes, you should be conscious of good SEO practice, but you should always write for the reader. Most of your sentences will be under sixteen words anyways. The odd longer sentence shouldn't do you any harm.
  3. In the Yoast readability section you can achieve a green light without compromising your writing style. Could you look to improve the other scores?
  4. Totally agree. Write for humans.

    Look at it another way.... a piece of software won't tell you how profitable a particular writing piece will be, which is usually always the aim in one way or another, and if a client is looking for SE perfect articles the chances are that it won't be. For one, you'll probably fail every time on the readability score if you write the way I do. Not for spelling, or even for long sentences, but for using sentences just like this these. But you understand what I'm saying, right? That was a fail right there. Oh, and another one :)

    If you can write in a way that persuades people to buy things that's a much more important skill. If they don't appreciate that, ditch them...
  5. #5 BrinWilson, Sep 7, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2016
    I'm really not keen on short sentences. Sentences need to say what they need to say and screw the length. What's more, sentences need to flow together in interesting ways. Short sentences can often lead to stilted and/or unnatural sounding paragraphs. My advice would be to read it back to yourself out loud and if it sounds wrong — or like something you wouldn't actually say — then it's probably is!
  6. - also, I've noticed some writers (not you Joe, but others) trying to cram keywords into posts simply in order to satisfy the Yoast green light, this is never a good idea... unnatural keyword stuffing is an absolutely terrible idea!
  7. I hate Yoast readability. Not only is it wrong sometimes - its requirements make no sense. I'll get a red score just because I listed a bunch of products from a company that all start with the same word.

    One tip is that if you're doing a list, break it up into bullet points. This is more about making the post scannable and easier-to-understand, but it would also help shorten sentences.

    E.g. With the tool, you get awesome feature 1, awesome feature 2, and awesome feature 3.


    With the tool, you get:
    • Awesome feature 1
    • Awesome feature 2
    • Awesome feature 3
    I also agree with Rhys. You can kinda game Yoast Readability if you figure out how it weights things. E.g. if you eliminate all passive voice, that makes a huge difference. I don't like passive voice anyway so that works for me :)
  8. Agree! But keywords is just one element. Admittedly it's the easiest to game, but I wonder if keyword stuffing has an affect on readability?
  9. - although not always, it certainly can. It can be annoying to the reader to keep having to read the same key phrase over and over again. If it's not natural — and/or forced into the sentence/paragraph — it's usually quite noticeable.
  10. I understand that, sorry I didn't make it clear.

    I meant in terms of Yoast's WordPress SEO. So if you stuff keywords, would it affect the Readability score in Yoast?
  11. Good advice Kevin! I only have one client who insists on an overall green light for readability but I'm loathe to drop them yet!

    I think it was only recently that Yoast WordPress SEO separated SEO and Readability into two separate ratings. So I think they are independant in terms of keyword stuffing.


    After reducing the length of my sentences to meet that particular criteria, I've now found I'm lacking on transition words! It's a real pain. Especially once you've already written the article!

    I noticed a while ago that if you put a full stop/period at the end of each list item on a bullet list, it would improve the readability score - not sure if that is still a feature of the plugin?

    Also, I thought that the Premium Yoast SEO plugin allowed you to change the Anaysis levels. So you could set a green light rating for your site at 50% for example. But I can't see that feature listed on the site.

    I guess these ratings are designed to make bloggers feel insecure and then turn to the $299 Yoast SEO Copywriting course to learn how to improve their ratings!
    Heather likes this.
  12. Here's the way I look at it.

    SEO trends change. Good writing does not.

    What worked in SEO a few years ago does not work now. What many SEO plugins are recommending just now will change next year when Google changes the way they rank websites. If you were to keep trying to follow these types of SEO recommendations, you would have to edit your articles all the time.

    You also need to think about the importance of the article being written for the reader. If you write a good article that is useful and full of links that the reader will need, people will link to the article and they will share the article. Links and social media shares are much more important than getting a 10% rating instead of a 8% rating.
    Paul G likes this.
  13. Yes I totally agree. Its hard though when the client requests you to follow the SEO advice of the plugin!

    It's a shame that a pretty clunky SEO plugin has been given the power to grade written content.
    Heather likes this.
  14. I cannot work with clients like that.

    What they are doing is stopping you from doing what they hired you to do. It's like hiring a painter and then telling him afterwards he needs to do it with both hands tied behind his back.
  15. I agree with you guys... but just about the question of how to add in some short sentences, I have some ideas.

    Some short sentences can really work well for emphasis, and it can be great to mix some short sentences in with longer ones for variety.

    Here's an example of something kind of like I'm talking about:

    Rise forums is a great place to talk about Wordpress, online marketing, and blogging, among other things. It's true! When you come to Rise Forums, you know you'll have a great experience.

    What? You're not convinced? Let me explain...

    (So little sentences like, "It's true!" could be part of your plan of attack to reduce the percentage of long sentences.)

    Other small sentences to add a bit of punch might be Yes! No! Not convinced? Of course!

    The other thing you can do if you're trying to break up some long sentences to appease Yoast is to divide compound sentences into their individual sentences.

    For example...

    There are many awesome things about the new Rise Forums design, and I'm sure you're going to love it.

    There are many awesome things about the new Rise Forums design. I'm sure you're going to love it!

    Maybe those tips might help?

    For me, I recently tried to please Yoast, and let's just say that Yoast is happy, but I'm not. My article looks very keyword-stuffed, and if I had more time I'd get in there and re-do it. But I don't have time at the moment, so I'm going to let it lie. But yikes!

    I like just writing and then thinking a little about keywords, maybe... I agree, trying to create all green dots is a slippery slope.
  16. Sometimes longer sentences are necessary. Sometimes they are not. It really depends on the flow of the piece.

    The problem is that software cannot determine when it is appropriate and when it is not. Neither can they predict whether ranking factors for sentence length will change in the future. That's why I believe it is better to just focus on writing a good article.
  17. I think you should depend much SEO by Yoast since it is just a machine without be compared to other language-specialized machines. Instead, try to make your sentences clear for people and Google bots to read and crawl!
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