The best sentences are ones that show off brilliance without being show-offy. They pulse with the vitality of language and they aren’t any longer than they need to be.
Below you’ll find 43 good sentences. Solid sentences, sentences that you would be proud to bring home to Mom and Dad. Marriage-worthy sentences.
Ultimately, these sentences will repay your close attention. Under careful scrutiny, they will open up like flowers and reveal to you the wonders of the world.
I’ve spent years collecting the good sentences here in a file that I reserve for only my best sentences. I give them to you hoping that they will inspire to write more beautiful sentences, inspire you to read more looking for these type of gems, and that they will make your life just a little bit more gorgeous.
If you want a few more sentences, check out my post of 100 Beautiful Sentences.
I’d also encourage you to start a file with good sentences, too. Ones that rock your soul and upend all your expectations about language and about the world. You’ll never know when you might need inspiration.
If you don’t like one or two of these, wonderful. I would love to hear about why you don’t like them in the comments.
If you love one or two of MOST of these, I would love to hear which ones struck you to the core.
Because ultimately, like all art and things pertaining to beauty, “good” is subjective. The only definition for good that I don’t like is one that doesn’t pay attention to language. Because for me, a good sentence isn’t just about whether the language communicates a great idea; a good sentence has to showcase the infinite flexibility and brilliance of language itself.
1. “His body was all spring and torque, a bundle of fast-twitch muscles that exuded faint floral whiffs of ripe pear.”
– Ben Fountain
2. “Across the chasm the first sunlight clipped the western echelon of ruined mountains and cones of the badlands volcanoes at the edge of the world, and they were gray and red and gold in the moment.”
– Ron Carlson
3. “I did not feel as if I were a person but simply a receiving station for a series of overwhelming transmissions.”
– Jeff Vandermeer
4. “Kissing was good, but he tended to think of it as a beachhead from which to launch more serious operations, and a safe haven when, inevitably, he was forced to retreat.”
– Tobias Wolff
5. “People and their dwellings were such a thin dust on the surface of the globe, like invisible specks of bacteria on an orange, and the feeble lights of kebab shops and supermarkets failed utterly to register on the infinities of space above.”
– Michel Faber
6. “But God is only a white cold eye, a quarter-moon poised above the smoke, blinking, blinking, as the city is gradually pounded to dust.”
– Anthony Doerr
7. “It is said that unless you are born a god, your life, from its very beginning, is a mystery to you.”
– Jamaica Kincaid
8. “The long evening had made its way into the barrack through the windows, creating mysteries everywhere, erasing the seam between one thing and another, lengthening out the floors and either thinning the air or putting some refinement on my ear enabling me to hear for the first time the clicking of a cheap clock from the kitchen.”
– Flann O’Brien
9. “I don’t want to fade away, I want to flame away – I want my death to be an attraction, a spectacle, a mystery.”
– Jennifer Egan
10. “I realised, of course, that other people used these roads; but that night, it seemed to me these dark byways of the country existed just for the likes of us, while the big glittering motorways with their huge signs and super cafes were for everyone else.”
– Kazuo Ishiguro
11. “He seemed, like Albert Vetch, simultaneously haunted and oblivious, the kind of person who in one moment could guess, with breathtaking coldness, at the innermost sorrow in your heart, and in the next moment turn and, with a cheery wave of farewell, march blithely through a plate-glass window, requiring twenty-two stitches in his cheek.”
– Michael Chabon
12. “It was hard to say what had depressed him more: the studied footwork of the couples on the dance floor, or the heartrending petty bourgeois piteousness of cucumber sandwiches passed around by accounting majors whose overly colorful bow ties had been expressly chosen to keep them from looking like waiters.”
– Nell Zink
13. “Fridrik sat many a night by a smoking lamp, translating into Danish descriptions of the latest methods of keeping us poor humans alive, while on pallets around him lay the corpses, beyond any aid, despite the encouraging news of advances in electrical cures.”
14. “His scarred, shaven face flattens against the mat.”
– Richard Beard
15. “Whatever I did I would do as I had done.”
– E.L. Doctorow
16. “The fights between pupils were sometimes violent, the humiliations brutal and cruel, and Jed, being delicate and slight, would have been incapable of defending himself; but word spread that he was motherless, and such suffering, which none of them could claim to know, intimidated his schoolmates; thus there was around him a sort of halo of fearful respect.”
– Michel Houellebecq
17. “There were patches of blackened snow on the red-tiled roof, and through the black teeth of its towering chimney rose a column of lignite smoke; wedged between the triangle of the roof and the rectangle of the chimney was a bright blue sky.”
– Orhan Pamuk
18. “Objects, their outlines beginning to harden in the growing light, had a shadowy, totemic menace.”
– Paula Fox
19. “When Jun Do had cordoned off the pounding in his eyes, and the hot blood in his nose, when he’d stopped the split in his lips and the sting in his ears from coming inside, when he’d blocked his arms and torso and shoulders from feeling, when that was all blocked off, there was only the inside of him, and what he discovered was a little boy in there who was stupidly smiling, who had no idea what was happening to the man outside.”
– Adam Johnson
20. “A single note, held in an amber suspension of time, like a charcoal drawing of Icarus falling.”
– Karen Russell
21. “Nothing is random, nor will anything ever be, whether a long string of perfectly blue days that begin and end in golden dimness, the most seemingly chaotic political acts, the rise of a great city, the crystalline structure of a gem that has never seen the light, the distributions of fortune, what time the milkman gets up, or the position of the electron.”
– Mark Helprin
22. “What is astonishing is that we, who had no idea how anything was going to turn out, now know exactly what happened.”
– Philip Roth
23. “The building’s rusted fire escape would just come down, just come loose from its moorings and crash onto the street, if anyone stepped on it – a fire escape whose function was not to save lives in the event of a fire but to uselessly hang there testifying to the immense loneliness inherent to living.”
– Philip Roth
24. “But it is just two lovers, holding hands and in a hurry to reach their car, their locked hands a starfish leaping through the dark.”
– John Updike
25. “The jeep would round the bend, be hit by a dozen bullets at once, and that would be the end of his petty history of unfocused groping and unimportant dissatisfactions.”
– Normal Mailer
26. “It was so quiet, a reservation kind of quiet, where you can hear somebody drinking whiskey on the rocks three miles away.”
– Sherman Alexie
27. “How right that the body changed over time, becoming a gallery of scars, a canvas of experience, a testament to life and one’s capacity to endure it.”
– Janet Fitch
28. “We are all waiting for the luminous hands that will reach for us in the night, the eyes that will witness our pain, the voice that will whisper the possibility of a different truth.”
– Gina Nahai
29. “I am twelve years old, standing beneath a starfruit tree, standing on an asphalt path lined with banyan trees, their roots extending from ground to sky to ground again and forming great pockets of wild, empty space in the center of their root-branches.”
– Kyle Minor
30. “The compasses are disappointingly true, pointing north over and over, when all he wants is for one to dissent, to demur, to show him the new direction he cannot find on his own.”
– Matt Bell
31. “He thought of his eyes on alcohol, gray coals in a brick-like face, a vicious mouth that lifted flesh from bone like a man field-dressed a deer.”
– Shann Ray
32. “Weston, alone and in their father’s car, sped from the edge of that highway in darkness and blew out the metal guardrail and warped the steel so it reached after the car like a strange hand through which the known world passes, the heavy dark Chevelle like a shot star, headlights that put beams in the night until the chassis turned and the car became an untethered creature that fell and broke itself on the valley floor.”
– Shann Ray
33. “The sun glints through the pines and the heart is pierced in a moment of beauty and strange pain, like a memory of paradise.”
– Peter Matthiessen
34. “As someone whose days were defined by the ten thousand ways a human can hurt, she needed, now and then, to remember that the nervous system didn’t exist exclusively to feel pain.”
– Anthony Marra
35. “There is no beyond, there is only here, the infinitely small, infinitely great and utterly demanding present.”
– Iris Murdoch
36. “Oh, dear God, you don’t actually have a brain, do you, it’s more a filigreed spiderweb, with little chambers in it where trained monkeys play the pipe organ.”
– Glen David Gold
37. “I knew every raindrop by its name.”
– Denis Johnson
38. “And by habit they shortened their thoughts so that they would not wander out into the darkness beyond tomorrow.”
– Carson McCullers
39. “The wind was picking up off the ocean now and the whole coastal scene had a bleak, abandoned look, as though Maine in November really belonged to the ragged gulls who wheeled over the sun-worn pier, and the humans had just gotten the news and taken a powder.”
– Jonathan Lethem
40. “They rode on and the sun in the east flushed pale streaks of light and then a deeper run of color like blood seeping up in sudden reaches flaring planewise and where the earth drained up into the sky at the edge of creation the top of the sun rose out of nothing like the head of a great red phallus until it cleared the unseen rim and sat squat and pulsing and malevolent behind them.”
– Cormac McCarthy
41. “Fabricated of supple brown leather by an esteemed New England manufacturer, the rucksack smelled richly, mysteriously of autumn leaves, grilled lobster, and the sweat and sperm of boys’ boarding schools.”
– Viet Thanh Nguyen
42. “A complying memory has obliterated many of them and edited my childhood down to a brief cinematic blur.”
– VS Naipaul
43. “Deep in the muddled darkness six copper pheasant feathers glowed in a cradle of blackthorn.”
– Helen Macdonald
Thanks for reading these! I hope you found what you were looking for. Remember to leave a comment below about your favorite one (or your least favorite one!), or to list a good sentence that you think I missed.
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