Have you ever had the extremely frustrating experience where you start out reading a sentence, and then half way through you are not able to remember the beginning of the sentence anymore? There are very extreme examples such as the German book “Das Muschelessen,” which ruined three months of my school life back in the day. Actually, we would all do better to shorten our sentences and use more periods. Ann Wylie highlights this issue in her latest article, “Use. More. Periods.” in the recent issue of PR Tactics.
Although there has been research by the American Press Institute that proves that reader comprehension drops as sentence length increases, most authors still ignore this fact.
To improve your style, scan through your text looking for other punctuation marks such as commas, semicolons or dashes. They connect dependent to independent clauses. You can often make your sentences crisper and clearer by using periods instead.
Leading authors agree that commas should be used rarely as they interrupt the sentence flow. Always ask yourself if they are really necessary. Dashes should also be handled with care
Wylie cites Roy Peter Clark, vice president and senior scholar at the Poynter Institute who claims that dashes are “always there. Lying around. So generic. So available.” Wylie states that writers have a special dislike for semicolons. Quoting Kurt Vonnegut she jokes that they are only good to show you’ve been to university. Important to us as PR specialists is that semicolons are the only unretweetable punctuation mark. They usually create more confusion than help in organizing a sentence.
Summing up, when you find commas, dashes, or semicolons in your writing while scanning, try to replace them with periods. “The period, believe me, is the best friend a writer will ever have” writes columnist James J. Kilpratick. We’d all do better to listen to his advice.