How should you write a sentence?
Well, most guides will start off with 10,000 ways NOT to write a sentence.
You know, the finger-wagging schoolmarm that lectures you about avoiding fragments and comma splices and run-ons.
The governing wisdom about writing sentences says not to repeat. Repetition is bad. Repetition is sloppy. Writers are encouraged to consult a thesaurus and change up that pesky offending word.
But is this really true?
Literature is full of repetition. Literary writers constantly use the literary device of repeated words. I think the only type of repetition which is bad is sloppy repetition. Repetition which is unintentional, which sounds awkward.
Here are 65 examples of long sentences ranging from the relatively brief 96 words to one of the longest sentences at 2,156 words.
Almost all of the really long sentences are under 1,000 words. The six longest sentences (1,000+ words) are mostly a curiosity, just to see what is possible.
I love short sentences. I really do. In any book filled with a series of long, expansive sentences, a short sentence arrives like a gift.
Short sentences rarely have the ambiguity or mystery of a long sentence. They rarely have twists or swerves or switchbacks, because that requires the length of a longer sentence. They rarely win your admiration for verbal virtuosity, the way that a long sentence can astonish you.
In the latest issue of GQ, Boris Kachka tries to review Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue in one sentence. The justification for this is somewhat weak — he cites Jonathan Franzen for having a ‘long’ sentence in Freedom (wait: 307 words doesn’t really count as “long”) and the fact that Chabon himself tries a 12 page sentence in the book under review.