Web Writing @ KerryR.net  

Syllables and Rhythm in Web Writing

Don't just count words, count the syllables in those words.

The number of syllables used in words - and the number of syllables used in consecutive words - affects the rhythm of sentences. An irregular rhythm and/or too many syllables can decrease reading speed and comprehension.

In printed material, the brain slows down to string multiple syllables together. On the Web, that comprehension is slowed down by another 25% - and with that slow down, we often lose the rhythms of sentences.

For example:

The benefits of external training:
  • Minimal inconvenience, other than rostering staff to accommodate the training.

Min-i-mal in-con-ve-ni-ence. Eight syllables in the first two words.

Our Web readers haven't lost the rhythm of that sentence, they tripped over it.

Turn it Around

We can get rid of two of those syllables by simply substituting less for minimal. We can dispose of another syllable by turning the phrase around to read more convenient.

If we change that phrase to more practical, we've cut the amount of syllables in half.

Even so, we're left with a single long sentence, with a lot of syllables and very little rhythm - and which concentrates on the inconvenience our readers will have.

If we change that entire sentence to read…

The benefits of external training:
  • More convenient. You only need to change your roster to suit the training.

… we have two short sentences of 5 and 14 syllables respectively, that maintain a steady rhythm and stress the positive (convenience) rather than the negative (inconvenience).

Breaking Long Sentences in Web Writing Previous Next Choosing Words in Web Writing

Using MS Word Readability Statistics for Web Writing