Derek Sivers

writing one sentence per line

2022-06-20

My advice to anyone who writes: Try writing one sentence per line. I’ve been doing it for twenty years, and it improved my writing more than anything else.

New sentence? Hit [Enter]. New line.

Not publishing one sentence per line, no. Write like this for your eyes only. HTML or Markdown combine separate lines into one paragraph.

Why is it so useful?

It helps you judge each sentence on its own.

We sometimes write sentences that don’t need to exist. Hidden in a paragraph, we might not notice. Standing on their own, we notice. Delete any sentence not worthy of its own line.

It helps you vary sentence length.

We need to vary the lengths of our sentences. Sometimes short. Sometimes long. Yes it really helps to read it out loud, but it’s even clearer to see it on the page like this.

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It helps you move sentences.

When all sentences are stacked in a column, they’re easier to rearrange. Cut three lines. Paste them up above. It’s easier to move your best sentence to the beginning or end of a paragraph.

It helps you see first and last words.

First words punch. Last words linger. Seeing your sentences vertically helps you notice your beginnings and endings. Chop the weak beginnings, like “I think” and “Whether or not”. Start with powerful subjects and verbs.

screenshot of text with one sentence per line