Short Analysis #1

Short Analysis #1 (Sentence Survey)

Drafts Workshop:            January 28

Draft Submission:            January 30

For your first short analysis, you will engage in a survey of the sentence and paragraph lengths of a passage of your writing and a passage of a professional writer’s writing. Using that survey, you will present a comparative analysis of the two passages, focusing on sentence length and structure. You must submit the survey with your analysis.

Choose eight to ten paragraphs from a professional writer. News magazines such as Time and Newsweek probably will not work. You may also choose an article from a professional journal from your major discipline or a piece of fiction, but I would recommend a popular magazine rather than a specialized journal. Make sure that you follow the directions in the book for identifying sentences and eight paragraphs from the professional publication. Then, choose eight paragraphs from an academic expository essay of your own. Do not include any direct quotations or block quotations.

When you complete the survey, think about the relative length and variety of your sentences compared to the professional writer. What does your analysis indicate to you about your sentences? How does the professional writer use short sentences relative to the other sentences in the paragraph and/or passage? That is, what functions do the shortest and longest sentences serve in delivering the writer’s message? How about your sentences? What functions do your shortest and longest sentences serve within specific paragraphs and in delivering your overall message? Which sentence patterns do you use for specific purposes and to what effect? What strategies might you incorporate to improve your sentence length and variety, if necessary? You might also consider the sentence patterns.

Compare the relative lengths and variety of your paragraphs compared to the professional writer. How do you think the professional writer uses short and long paragraphs? What functions within the article do the paragraphs serve? How about your paragraphs? Do they carry in length? What functions do the shortest and longest paragraphs serve in your essay? Are they as well developed as the professional writer’s paragraphs? Why or why not? What strategies might you incorporate to improve your paragraphs’ relative length and the purpose they serve in communicating your ideas?

Your analysis should be in the form of the “traditional” academic paper in that it should include an introduction with a thesis sentence, well-developed body paragraphs with detailed support for all assertions, and an effective conclusion. That said, I suspect you will want to share the data and examples of sentences in a bulleted or indented format. Feel free to do so. I expect that you will need between 750 and 1,000 words to get to the depth you will need.

Sentence Survey

  • Choose eight paragraphs from an article published in a magazine such as Smithsonian, National Geographic, The Atlantic, or choose an academic journal from your discipline of study. Although you can copy and paste the text from the publication’s web site, the publication must be “print-native.” See me if you are not certain.
  • Choose eight paragraphs from one of your own academic essays.
  • Complete the following chart for each.
  • Submit this chart with your final draft.
Published Writer My Writing
Total number of words
Total number of sentences
Longest sentence (in # of words)
Shortest sentence (in # of words)
Average sentence length
Number of sentences with more than ten words over the average length
Percentage of sentences with more than ten words over the average
Number of sentences with more than five words below the average
Percentage of sentences with more than five words below the average
Longest paragraph (in # of sentences)
Shortest paragraph (in # of sentences)
Average paragraph (in # of sentences)

The following include comments I have made on drafts previously submitted for this assignment. They should be useful to you as you develop and revise your drafts.

Rhetoric and Grammar

  • Try to provide some specific examples from both the professional writer’s work and your work to add clarity and support to your ideas and claims. The trick to adding the examples is to summarize the information and context without simply copying and pasting a bunch of long quotations.
  • As you analyze the long and short sentences, consider how those sentences function to help carry meaning among sentences surrounding them and within the paragraphs in which they are located. Similarly, consider how the particularly short and long paragraphs work as part of the larger text.
  • Don’t necessarily discuss only sentence length. Consider the sentence patterns as you discuss how the material is presented. How well do each of you vary your sentence patterns? Do either or both of you repeat sentence patterns for a specific effect.
  • It’s worth considering audience and purpose of the published writer’s text and your own text. When you do, be fair to the audience–don’t imply that they are stupid or lazy. There are plenty of other reasons why one would prefer shorter sentences and/or paragraphs for different audiences, purposes, and formats.

General Thoughts

  • Try to incorporate our coursework into your drafts. For example, if we are considering strategic use of long and short sentences, try to use long and short sentences strategically.
  • I will admit that it is difficult to whip up much excitement about an analytical paper. That said, try to do something with your opening.
  • When discussing specific sentences and paragraphs, summarize whenever possible but make sure that you carefully establish the context for the material.


  • As a general rule, do not use ambiguous forms of the second person (“you”) in formal academic writing. As you edit, work specifically on being more concise.
  • Be sure to review the punctuation guidelines for coordination.
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