Does Word Order Matter? Think “Short to Long”

When polishing your sentences, pay attention to the nuances of word order. To my eye (and ear), placing “short” before “long” works best. This applies to both sentences and lists.

Here’s a simple example: “He was well respected and loved in the academic community.” I changed it to: “He was loved and well respected in the academic community.”

Because “loved” is 5 letters and “well respected” is 13, it makes for a smoother read if the longer phrase follows the shorter word. See if you agree.

Another example: “Good leaders don’t waste time, effort, financial resources, or opportunities.” This becomes: “Good leaders don’t waste time, effort, opportunities, or financial resources.” The shift creates a tidy parade of words from short to long. Easier to follow!

Pay Attention to Lists, Too

In addition, a list is visually easier to follow when the line length goes from short to long. This example comes from a leadership newsletter:

It would be counterproductive if you:

  • Take the time to plan your day, but you don’t follow the plan.
  • Hire people to do a job but don’t take the time training them to do that job.
  • Have slow-moving products in your inventory that generate low margins.
  • Conduct an employee engagement survey and do nothing with the results.
  • Attend a trade show to network with customers but spend your time on the phone.

Key message: Better writing means paying attention to the best use of word order!

For even more tips, go to

Barbara McNichol is passionate about helping administrative professionals add power to their pen. To assist in this mission, she has created a Word Trippers Tips resource to quickly find the right word when it matters most. It allows you to improve your writing through excellent resources in your inbox, including a webinar, crossword puzzles, and a Word Tripper of the Week for 52 weeks. Enjoy a $30 discount at checkout with the code ODI at

You can also pick up a copy of my Word Trippers eBook or my 18 Days to Become a Better Writer eBook


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