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Phrase Lengths

Note: The length and structure of phrases and thoughts is impacted on by culture, place, accent, era etc.  The older the play, the longer the phrases are likely to be. You see, in the modern age we are increasingly informed by 2 to 3 second editing cuts on TV and radio, and our modern urban phrase length keeps getting shorter. Think of the impact of sms and email on how we view language. Think of the impact of billboards, TV, film and music videos editing on the speed at which we visually consume information in urban environments.  

In modern urban English (and in other languages) we now phrase in 3 – 8 word chunks rather than using phrase lengths of up to 13 or more words as in the early 20th Century. This means that as a modern communicator, you need to adjust you phrase lengths to hold the attention of your modern audience. Go beyond 8 words in a phrase or chunk of information and you do so at great risk of losing your audience. 

(Interestingly today you may still notice a similar difference between how urban and rural people speak. The impact of the visual world and smsing is likely not as great on your rural communicator as your urban one. Different lifestyles and influences mean that we think, behave and speak differently! But even here the gap is closing as technology seeps into all our lives.) 

© Donald Woodburn

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