Overdoing short sentences

Dutch people like short sentences. More and more often nowadays. Very modern. Makes it impactful. Easy for translators, surely! Glue fragments together? No! Style changes.

The issue is that the effect isn’t always quite the same in English. Dutch authors don’t seem to realise that it makes them sound childish at best and like Yoda after he’s been at the magic mushrooms at worst (if the grammar or word order are a bit wonky too). Here some hints for you are. If Yoda-speak you wish to avoid:

  • if you’re listing a number of bullet points, format them as such
  • if a fragment without a verb could easily be glued onto the preceding or following sentence, it probably should be
  • the occasional sentence fragment can indeed have impact – just don’t try it several times in a row
  • there’s a widespread opinion that this makes texts easier for non-native target audiences to understand. While I’d agree that lengthy legalese structures should then be avoided, it can be taken too far. The surrounding context of the small words actively helps the reader tell whether (for example) glue or style were verbs or nouns.

(On a personal note, it’s thirty years married today and posting after a champagne breakfast probably means I’m waxing more lyrical than normal. The point remains valid, though!)

Prevalence: moderate. Doesn’t apply to all writing, of course.
Frequency: high. Marketing texts and sales websites above all are fond of this trick.
Native: sometimes. It does occur, but not usually to ungrammatical excess.

Published by Mike Wilkinson

Twenty years of translating and editing Dutch into English, as well as writing and publishing in English.

4 thoughts on “Overdoing short sentences

  1. Congrats on your wedding anniversary! This daily dose of Dunglish alerts is great, thanks.Best regards Deborah Sent from my Samsung Galaxy smartphone.

    Liked by 1 person

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