Does Size Matter?

A while ago I asked a friend why short sentences were so pleasing to read and write. He had no answers, but agreed that brevity is its own reward. Some (though I can find no reference to it) suggest that technological developments have changed and simplified sentence structure by allowing writers to write and revise freely, while typewriters and pens required forethought and concentration to avoid scribbling out unwanted, half-formed sentences.

David Rothman is considering gender issues in sentence length. Rothman’s interest is in ebooks, and now he’s wondering about an apparent gender split among those who read them. Does the following generalization have any bearing?

Original e-books often have short sentences and short paragraphs to compensate for the very real failings of typical hardware.

He asks because a recent On The Media featured a story about the writing differences of men and women.

Deborah Tannen, an expert in gender and linguistics, who notes that the sentences in men’s magazines tend to be shorter than in women’s — even when the writers are female. Clearly the issue isn’t just that typical men write with shorter sentences; it’s also that they would seem to enjoy reading them. Part of this could be men’s enjoyment of action-oriented writing, where shorter sentences are better. But could other factors be at work as well?

Read Rothman’s full post for more details and lots more links.

One thought on “Does Size Matter?

  1. “Part of this could be men’s enjoyment of action-oriented writing, where shorter sentences are better.”

    That is utterly silly. it strikes me as funny that if I said something like “women like to shop because they are materialistic” I’d be shot for being sexist (and rightfully so), but somehow the implication that men need action is entirely okay. I personally like a good long sentence just as much as I like a short one.

    If anything I’d look at the fact that men’s magazines aren’t geared towards the literary as much as they are geared towards people who don’t necessarily enjoy reading.

Comments are closed.