1. Stammis
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    Stammis Contributing Member

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    Sentence length

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Stammis, Mar 27, 2016.

    I don't generally think about sentence length and just go with what sounds well when I read aloud. But I noticed that this paragraph has really short sentences and now I'm worried that my judgment has been blinded.

    Does this sound right?

    The tour continued. Quietly he listened to her words describing the surrounding area. She spoke almost mechanically as if she had done this many times before. Eventually, they arrived at the village. Rocks and hills surrounded it on all sides, breaking the view on the horizon, except from directly above. Along the way, they came across a house in glass. Inside, all manner of plants grew; all in cyan and purple. A vine-like plant caught his attention as it grew tall towards the ceiling. He stopped and stared at it. After staring for a while, he realised that Pen's voice has gone quiet. He looked around. Unable to find her he ran down the road and soon he found her talking to herself. The tour had continued without him.
     
  2. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    I think it depends on your style. The above paragraph sounds like something I would write (with regard to sentence length), so yeah, should be fine. But then, maybe you write differently. That specific you have to discover for yourself!

    There is no general rule, but remember - when people have to stop for breath before reaching the end of a sentence then this one is too long ;)
     
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  3. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    For my taste, the paragraph felt disjointed and jerky - I'd have liked it better with more variety of sentence length. Not all long, not all short.
     
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  4. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    You've got one or two longer ones in there. It's not that bad. And sometimes things will come out concisely. That's not necessarily a problem. Don't be a try-hard and think you need to cultivate some highly specific style. Some of the art of literature is in simply being good at describing things.
     
  5. Fawky
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    Fawky Member

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    I agree with @BayView here.

    I suppose it really depends what kind of a reader you are, but to me personally when I read short, sharp sentences like those it feels more like you're reciting a grocery list rather than writing an actual piece. That sounds harsh, but I see others feel fine with it so I'd really go with my gut here.
     
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  6. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I see nothing wrong with it (aside from the misuse of the semicolon). It's your particular style of writing, and that's fine. For what it's worth, Hemingway wrote using a lot of short sentences.
     
  7. Stammis
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    Stammis Contributing Member

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    It's awesome that you guys think it works, which means that the entire paragraph isn't terrible ;) but I think, after some scrutiny, that it is a bit choppy as well.

    I decided to add an "and" on this sentence; Along the way, they came across a house in glass, and inside, all manner of plants grew, all in cyan and purple.

    and I removed "He looked around" and just wrote; Unable to find her he ran down the road and soon he found her talking to herself. The tour had continued without him.

    Still trying to develop my own style I guess.
     
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2016
  8. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Unable to find her he ran down the road and soon he found her talking to herself...

    ^The repetition is clumsy, in my opinion. He couldn't find her and soon found her. This makes the first clause seem pointless. The sentence is also missing a few commas :)
     
  9. Stammis
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    Stammis Contributing Member

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    your right...

    Perhaps this is better?

    He looked around and ran down the road. She was talking to herself, still continuing the tour without him.
     
  10. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think that the primary issue is sentence length, but that the paragraph wavers between narrative summary and scene, never quite sure which it wants to be.
     
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  11. Aaron Smith
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    Aaron Smith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just going to leave this here:
     
  12. Witchymama
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    Witchymama Active Member

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    I didn't see a problem with sentence length. You have short sentences and longer ones. I didn't notice any sentence fragments(something I struggle with), or a problem with run on sentences(another personal struggle of mine).
     
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  13. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Sure, it's fine. Somehow "ran down the road" seem too directionless to me, as if he's running away from something or chasing something, rather than that he just lost the group he's with. The urgency it carries seems misplaced for simply going round with a tour group.

    Also, another line from your paragraph - this one: "A vine-like plant caught his attention as it grew tall towards the ceiling."

    It's not a good sentence because the word "as" makes it seem like the plant is growing towards the ceiling at the very same moment as being stared at.
     
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  14. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    @Aaron Smith: Excellent post! Thanks. It makes all the points I would have made, and does it artfully. :)
     
  15. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    The short sentences really stick out for me, especially at the beginning of the paragraph. I couldn't sit down and be immersed in a book that had that kind of flow (or lack of). Others won't notice or mind it--you can't please everyone.

    I ran it through the clarity index calculator and it said:

    "This is too low, and you may be too abrupt or too simplistic. Consider adding more descriptive words and longer sentences."

    Now the CIC is just a basic mathematical analysis but I find it a useful tool, even for fiction writing.
     
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  16. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I never struggle with fragments. I embrace them, these children of a lesser god. They have a place. They do. Yes. It's never do or don't; it's do with deliberation. ;)
     
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  17. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I love a good sentence fragment.
     
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  18. Alejandro89
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    Alejandro89 Member

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    I think it depends on what you are trying to tell, if it is a description: "it was red" might not cut it, bur in an action sequence, short sentences can bring a sense of speed: "He tried to grab her, she kicked him in the face and ran away" might work best than a more complex sentence.
     
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2016
  19. Witchymama
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    Witchymama Active Member

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    This shall be my new motto.
     
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  20. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I kept getting too low on snippets from my WIP. The thing it did like was my whopper of an opening paragraph that most of my critiquers hated. Lol. Go figure.
     
  21. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Ha. :D Mine consistently come out at 24-26 (on the low side of good) unless it's something unusual like an action sequence. My academic writing tends to come out on the higher end of good, or higher than good.
     
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  22. Stammis
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    Stammis Contributing Member

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    Wel, this is a redundancy if I ever saw one; He stopped and stared at it. After staring for a while

    Anyway, thx for your input, it is reassuring to see that people have different tastes, which means I am not simply wrong when writing like this.

    Here is the revised version ;)

    The tour continued. Quietly he listened to her words describing the surrounding area. Her voice was almost mechanical, as if she had recited them many times before. Eventually, they arrived at the village. Rocks and hills surrounded it on all sides, breaking the view on the horizon, except from directly above. Along the way, they came across a house in glass, and inside, all manner of plants grew, all in cyan and purple. A vine-like plant caught his attention, that grew tall towards the ceiling. As he stopped and stared, he realised that Pen’s voice had gone quiet. He looked around and hurried down the road. She was talking to herself, still continuing the tour without him.
     
  23. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    I'd probably not say " as if she had recited them many times" but more "she had probably". As if makes it seem as if he doesn't really know. When here it's pretty obvious that is a likely possibility. Just sayin'. Better though.
     

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