Sixty-six words in one sentence?

It was just too many words.

I was attending church the other day. During one of the readings in my book I stumbled over a big, chunky 66-word sentence. Counted them a second time. Yup, 66 words.

Now, this is not intended to be disrespectful to Saint Paul, the writer. And I imagine that long sentences in scripture are perfectly acceptable in church, where there's an eager, captive audience. But, don't try to duplicate this lofty word count on your own -- especially without divine intervention.

You see, short sentences are fun. They're active. They clip along.

On the other hand, long sentences such as this can drag on and on, lulling your readers into a semi-sleepy state -- allowing boredom to creep in almost unnoticed until too late.

Even worse? Stringing a bunch of long sentences together. This creates an unwanted rhythm -- a hypnotic effect much like the clickety-clack of a train going over a set of railroad tracks. Sleepy time isn't far behind.

A good writer will always vary his or her sentence length. Try starting a letter, for example, with a few powerful short sentences. Then slip in that longer sentence, if you must (but never 66 words). Then drop in a medium-length one. Mix 'em all up. Keep your audience a bit off guard. Don't let your readers get too comfortable as they're absorbing your masterpiece.

Next time you read an article -- printed or online -- notice how the better writers mix it up to keep you engaged. And entertained. And awake.

Author Joe Starin heads up Hit by a Brick, an independent copywriting resource.