Here’s what we decided:
Here’s how you can identify bad writing:
1. Are your sentences too long?
People often freak out when I ask this question, but isn’t it harder to read a long sentence than a short one? (Raise your hand if you survived the 958-word first sentence of “Remembrance of Things Past.” I didn’t.)
Sentence length is often a placeholder for other problems:
It’s easier to miss these issues in long sentences. In short ones, they stand out like shorts at a funeral.
In our TV- and Internet-modulated society, readers respond best to sentences that are, on average, 14 to 18 words. Note I said average; don’t make all your sentences the same length.
2. Are your sentences are too similar ?
Most schools don’t teach grammar these days, so I’ll keep this basic. Consider this sentence:
Madison went to the store.
It begins with a subject (Madison) and includes a predicate—a.k.a. a verb—(went) modified by an adverbial phrase (to the store).