1. Published on Amazon? If you have a book, e-book, or audiobook available on Amazon.com, we'll promote it on WritingForums.org for free. Simply add your book to our Member Publications section. Add your book here or read the full announcement.
    Dismiss Notice
  1. Seeker of the unknown

    Seeker of the unknown Member

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2016
    Messages:
    17
    Likes Received:
    6

    Compound sentences and non-fiction

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Seeker of the unknown, Apr 28, 2016.

    In my short journey in non-fiction writing often I came across the opinion that all compound sentences - if possible - should be separated to simple sentences. Mostly I heard arguments of of an aesthetical character. I am not sure if it wasn't mentioned as a crucial principle in "The elements of style".

    I am curious what is your opinion about it?
     
  2. Wayjor Frippery

    Wayjor Frippery Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2016
    Messages:
    612
    Likes Received:
    716
    Location:
    Tranquility Base
    I've heard that a sentence should contain only one idea or image or thought, but that maxim wouldn't preclude using a compound sentence (such as this one). I'm not familiar with what Strunk and White say on the subject, so I can't comment on that (oh, and there's a another one).

    My opinion is that, yes — if possible — in non-fiction writing, you should aim for simple sentences, but I wouldn't rule out compounds altogether.

    A wishy-washy answer, to be sure. Perhaps someone will come along with a firmer opinion.

    :)
     
    Seeker of the unknown likes this.
  3. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2014
    Messages:
    1,888
    Likes Received:
    1,232
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Oh, good grief. No compound or complex sentences in non-fiction? How tedious. And limiting. You write the kind of sentences necessary to convey your meaning clearly and to give liveliness, rhythm, and readability to your prose.

    Whoever's opinion that was, don't be bound by it. (I doubt it was Strunk and White.) Read nonfiction on subjects that interest you, by authors you admire, and see how they do it. I doubt their work will sound like a first-grader's picture book.
     
  4. Earp

    Earp Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2016
    Messages:
    226
    Likes Received:
    189
    An example would be useful, but generally, I would say that non-fiction isn't the place for experimental or non-standard usage.
     
  5. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    9,509
    Likes Received:
    6,026
    I'm wondering if this advice was yanked out of context. Nonfiction in appliance manuals, yep, simple is essential. Nonfiction in philosophical treatises, certainly not.

    But which kind of nonfiction? As a general rule, I definitely wouldn't agree.
     
    Catrin Lewis likes this.
  6. BayView

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    6,252
    Likes Received:
    5,758
    But compound sentences are hardly experimental or non-standard. Unless I misunderstand the term, your post itself is a compound sentence (two independent clauses joined by a connecting word or phrase).
     
    Feo Takahari and Catrin Lewis like this.
  7. Seeker of the unknown

    Seeker of the unknown Member

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2016
    Messages:
    17
    Likes Received:
    6
    That's what I thought in the first place when I heard it, but since I didn't have much experience in the enterprise, I took those opinions for granted. Now, although I am still far away from being an experienced writer, I come to the conclusion that writing is not about using stylistical techqniues according to a strict manual. Rather it is about being conscious of their functions and effects, and apply them based on the results we want to achieve.

    The non-fiction I am interested in are mostly essays concerned with philosophical and psychological matters as well as social analysis. I would also like to weave into them some subtle poetry, which is not pretentious, but adds some secondary aesthetic value. Its hard for me to imagine achieving that without using compound sentences.
     
    Catrin Lewis likes this.
  8. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    9,509
    Likes Received:
    6,026
    I think that whoever gave this advice--and by the way, do you have a link to one of them? I'm curious.--was defining "non fiction" as certain subsets of the huge body of writing that happens to not be fiction. How-to books, some types of self-help books, references (for example, etiquette guides or travel guides), some textbooks, that sort of thing.
     

Share This Page