With average sentences of 8 words or less, readers understood 100% of the story. (Downside: Copy might sound as if it had been ripped from a Dick and Jane book.)
At 14 words, they understood 90% of the information.
At 43 words, they understood less than 10%.
Times sentences average 15 words, ...]
“Times readers are sophisticated and don’t expect ‘Run, Spot, run’ syntax,” writes Philip B. Corbett, who’s in charge of revising the newsroom’s style manual. “But news is read in a hurry, and we should strive for clear, sharp prose that aids rapid comprehension. Long, complex sentences slow readers down and can lead our syntax astray.”
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