No matter how well-researched and technologically correct your B2B content is, if your target audience can’t understand it, it’s pointless. While B2B content can tackle big, technical ideas, it doesn’t need to lead to overcomplicated and confusing copy.
One way to make your B2B content easier to digest is by shortening your sentences. By doing so, you improve the accessibility of your content and save time and effort for B2B decision makers.
But how many words are there in the perfect B2B sentence? How short are we talking?
Spoiler: there is no perfect sentence length
The UK government’s sentence limit is 25 words, and the same goes for Texthelp – a technology company dedicated to helping people communicate with accuracy and fluency. The BBC? Its average sentence is 20 words – which Ann Wylie, content writer and writing trainer, suggests is still too long.
Martin Cutts, author of the Oxford Guide To Plain English – one of the world’s most trusted reference books – says 15-20 words is his guideline for the ideal sentence length.
But if you’re looking to improve your SEO, 20-syllable sentences are best. And if you’re looking to write the perfect B2B tweet, Buddy Media reported the ideal length is way below the 280-character limit, at 71-100 characters.
While no one can seem to agree on a strict numeral answer, this variation gives room for a nice selection of sentence lengths. So, there you have it: the perfect sentence lies somewhere between 15-25 words, 20 syllables and 71-100 characters, but certainly not over 25 words… right?
Are sentences over 25 words wrong?
If every sentence had the exact same word, syllable, and character count, your content would get boring – fast.
Longer sentences (upwards of 25 words) shouldn’t be your go-to when writing easy-to-read content, but they can be necessary to add some variety – so you shouldn’t be quick to rewrite them just for the sake of word count.
When written deliberately and well, even sentences up to 40 words long can read effortlessly. Here’s an example written by Matt Godfrey, Head of Copy at Radix:
“Great B2B tech writers can quickly grasp the essentials of complex topics and products, and then write about them in a way that’s accurate, clear, authoritative, engaging, and persuasive – and pitched at exactly the right level for the target audience.
They understand that a 40-word sentence (like that last one) must be properly paced, and that it should probably be two 20-word sentences. Reading their work takes zero effort.”
Saying that, even Matt recognises longer sentences should be split up. Once you get close to 30 words in a single sentence, punctuation starts having to do some pretty heavy lifting and your audience is unlikely to be easily able to follow along.
Longer sentences aren’t strictly wrong, they can do wonders for creating varied, engaging content. But they should be the exception rather than the rule.
If in doubt, use your intuition
Next time you happen to be googling “what’s the ideal sentence length for B2B copy,” take any results with a pinch of salt. While they might be a good thing to bear in mind, they won’t have your specific content, format, client, or target audience in mind, so they could be misleading.
It’s important to use your judgement, and recognise word counts aren’t wholly responsible for creating engaging, easy to understand content. In fact, some of the best B2B content has sentences up to 45 words long.
And anyway, if it’s clear and concise, what’s the likelihood anyone’s really going to be counting syllables?