A Guide to the Longest Grammatically Correct Sentences

The longest grammatically correct sentence in history was written by author Jonathan Coe in his novel “The Rotters’ Club”. Coe holds the record for most words at 13,955!

Definition of a Long Sentence

A Long sentence is known as a run-on sentence. A long sentence is composed of two or more separate clauses that stand alone but are muddled together instead of being properly grouped.

Grammar school teaches us how to prevent run-on phrases. Long sentences, it is generally believed, make it more challenging to read the text. In spite of this, several examples in the literature of rebels defied the restriction on sentence length. Long sentences can be effective and easy to understand for some authors.

See for yourself why some of literature’s longest phrases succeed.

Short Review: Longest Grammatically Correct Sentences in History

A Tale of Two Cities: Charles Dickens

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” The infamous opening line to A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens is fairly lengthy. Although shorter than some of these others, the opening 181 words of the book are captivating and grab your interest.

Solar Bones: Mike McCormack

In more recent literature, the Irish novelist Mike McCormack wrote a one-sentence novel in 2016. The protagonist of the novel is Marcus Conway, a deceased middle-aged guy, returns on All Souls’ Day to reflect on his life. Chaos is one of the novel’s key themes, and the lack of punctuation enhances the idea nicely.

Utilitarianism: John Stuart Mill

Philosopher John Stuart Mill’s 161-word long run-on covers sentiments of power, enthusiasm, and pride. In order to fool the reader into thinking he is providing a lengthy explanation, Mill uses commas, colons, and semicolons as punctuation.

The line has an effect on your perception of logical reasoning, which you subsequently grasp by re-reading it.

On Being Ill : Virginia Woolf

In her 183-word essay “On Being Ill,” Virginia Woolf talks about how illness changes us spiritually. Most of the time, abstract ideas don’t work well in long sentences.

But in Woolf’s case, it shows the way to the most important phrase at the end. It’s a sentence that literature shouldn’t be afraid of, but should embrace.

Les Misérables: Victor Hugo

In Les Misérables, the ruler Louis Philippe is described in a single 823-word line. The length of the statement requires you to exercise patience.

You soon find your conclusion, regardless of how drawn-out it appears, that the length of the sentence carries a role in your plot.

Absalom, Absalom!: William Faulkner

William Faulkner was able to get away with his 1,288-word writing due to the length of his sentences. This statement reveals the inner workings of the characters and piques the reader’s curiosity.

Since no pauses are necessary to reflect on reading, the duration keeps the characters moving and fits nicely with the plot.

Rabbit, Run: John Updike

Writing about sex was highly scandalous in the 1960s, especially when a lady became pregnant before marrying.

The 163-word statement in Rabbit, Run conveys the narrator’s apprehensive sentiments when he discovers that his best friend missed her period.

Ulysses: James Joyce

James Joyce is credited with writing the longest sentence ever written. In James Joyce’s work Ulysses, the character Molly Bloom has a 36-page, 3,687-word monologue.

This lengthy line is only effective because it is a monologue. When supplemented with additional punctuation, it is simple to follow Molly’s train of thought as she speaks aloud.

The Assignment: Friedrich Dürrenmatt

The Assignment is a novella written by Swiss author Friedrich Dürrenmatt and released in 1986. The novella is released in 24 sections, each of which consists of 24 sentences.

Glenn Gould’s performance of Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier I, which comprises 24 movements, provided the impetus for breaking grammar rules.

To Wrap Up

A single lengthy sentence is composed of words separated by commas, periods, colons, semi-colons, or commas with no other punctuation. The longest grammatically correct sentence was inspired by a Czech tale composed of a single long sentence.

What do you think about run-on sentences? Do you think it holds a place in literature?

Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.

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