Sentences can be too simple

When we run training courses, we often say that sentences should be short and simple. As a rule, short, simple sentences are easier to read and understand than long, complicated ones. But sometimes simplifying can make a sentence less clear.

Here’s an example:

“People are eating more fruit and vegetables.”

It sounds simple enough, but it could mean several things:

  1. People are eating proportionally more fruit and veg – i.e. fruit and veg make up more of our food intake than they used to.
  2. People are eating a larger total volume of fruit and veg than in the past – possibly because there are more people on the planet or because people are eating more foods of all kinds than they used to.
  3. People are eating more kinds of fruit and veg – possibly because of better logistics, cross-cultural pollination or a desire to try new things.

I think this example shows it’s important to be clear when making a comparison. The reader must be able to answer the question “more than what?” If they can’t, you should add more information or rephrase the sentence.