Sentence structure

Readability guidelines

Avoid complex sentence structures. They are less easy to understand quickly understanding them requires more cognitive effort than simple sentences.

Complexity is defined by:

  • the number of clauses in a sentence, the more clauses the more complex it is
  • word order – how easy or difficult it is for the brain to parse a phrase, that is to recognise, group and take meaning from words that together convey meaning

Word order example:

a) "The red fox jumped over the gate."
b) "The fox, which was red, over the gate jumped."

Sentence a) is easier to understand than sentence b). Both are grammatically correct.

Usability evidence – legally recognised guidance, usability studies, academic papers

National Center for Biotechnology Information

'How the brain attunes to sentence processing: Relating behavior, structure, and function' A. Fengler, L. Meyer, A. D. Friederici
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4819595/

International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications, Volume 6, Issue 6, June 2016

'Functional Analysis of Clause Complex in the Language of News Websites Texts: A Comparative Study of Two Articles' F. M. S. Eid
http://www.ijsrp.org/research-paper-0616/ijsrp-p5445.pdf

Related wiki pages

Plain English
Sentence length
Jargon

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