Long Sentences: How it can Improve Your Writing

Long sentences can be likened to mountains, where the top of the peak is the sentence’s main idea. Every phrase that leads to that idea is a part of the main idea. 

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    The more you write in the mountain part of your sentence, the more the top of the peak will rise above the other mountains.

    We often follow the advice to keep our sentences short. But when we write long sentences, we transcend the boundaries of language and community. 

    Long sentences are hard to write — but they pay off handsomely in the world of novels, article writing, and research papers. 

     “Wait, they are still reading?” There is nothing more rewarding than seeing the satisfaction on your reader’s faces when they finally finish the sentence. The feeling is refreshing! 

    Throughout literature, long sentences have been used to increase the intensity and create a sense of excitement at the end. 

    Some of the longest respected sentences in literature work are so because they “commanded and carried the reader up and down the reader’s spine.” 

    The best writers have learned to think fast and write deep. Here are some successful long sentences you can steal.

    JANE AUSTEN, “NORTHANGER ABBEY.” 119 WORDS.

    “Her plan for the morning thus settled, she sat quietly down to her book after breakfast, resolving to remain in the same place and the same employment till the clock struck one; and from habitude very little incommoded by the remarks and ejaculations of Mrs. Allen, whose vacancy of mind and incapacity for thinking were such, that as she never talked a great deal, so she could never be entirely silent; and, therefore, while she sat at her work, if she lost her needle or broke her thread, if she heard a carriage in the street, or saw a speck upon her gown, she must observe it aloud, whether there were anyone at leisure to answer her or not.”

    MIGUEL DE CERVANTES, “DON QUIXOTE.” 200 WORDS. 

    “About this time, when some rain began to fall, Sancho proposed that they should shelter themselves in the fulling-mill, but Don Quixote had conceived such abhorrence for it, on account of what was past, that he would no means set foot within its wall; wherefore, turning to the right-hand, they chanced to fall in with a road different from that in which they had traveled the day before; they had not gone far, when the knight discovered a man riding with something on his head, that glittered like polished gold, and scarce had he descried this phenomenon, when turning to Sancho, “I find,” said he, “that every proverb is strictly true; indeed, all of them are apothegms dictated by experience herself; more especially, that which says, “shut one door, and another will soon open”: this I mention, because, if last night, fortune shut against us the door we fought to enter, by deceiving us with the fulling-hammers; today another stands wide open, in proffering to use us, another greater and more certain adventure, by which, if I fail to enter, it shall be my own fault, and not imputed to my ignorance of fulling-mills, or the darkness of the night.”

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    ANNIE PROULX, “CLOSE RANGE.” 142 WORDS.

    “But Pake knew a hundred dirt road shortcuts, steering them through scabland and slope country, in and out of the tiger shits, over the tawny plain still grooved with pilgrim wagon ruts, into early darkness and the first storm laying down black ice, hard orange dawn, the world smoking, snaking dust devils on bare dirt, heat boiling out of the sun until the paint on the truck hood curled, ragged webs of dry rain that never hit the ground, through small-town traffic and stock on the road, band of horses in morning fog, two redheaded cowboys moving a house that filled the roadway and Pake busting around and into the ditch to get past, leaving junkyards and Mexican cafes behind, turning into midnight motel entrances with RING OFFICE BELL signs or steering onto the black prairie for a stunned hour of sleep.”

    These works of literature are forms of long sentences, sometimes with many, sometimes with few punctuation points. The long sentences are written in a style of diction that is distinct.

    When these long sentences are broken up by a sentence not as long as the others, the reader senses a’ pause’ in the text. These are called “breaks.” 

    To see a sentence break, take a long sentence from two different works of literature. Show how it is broken and how the writer uses punctuation to give it structure. 

    A long sentence is a sentence where there’s at least one paragraph. That’s it. If it’s one paragraph, then you can’t be done. There are, of course, different ways to write a long sentence to make it interesting for the reader. How does one write flawless engaging long sentences?

    Here are some ways to write better long sentences:

    • You could use a phrase, a series of phrases, or a series of words – that can make your point memorable. The first step, of course, is to make the sentence enjoyable.
    • It would be best to keep your subject and verb close together at the BEGINNING of a long sentence. The subject is the lead “actor” in the sentence, and the verb is the principal action or “doing” word.
    • Use Fact, Reason, Result, and Outcome to write long sentences. This structured method will produce meaningful long sentences in your writing. 

    An example of this is: “My best color is black (Fact), I think it is such a happy and optimistic color (Reason); therefore, I have so many yellow accessories and furniture in my home (Result), which I believe it gives me lots of energy (outcome).”

    4. Using unusual and unexpected words to create a more robust structure. It creates a connection between the speaker and the listener. It makes the listener think.

    5. When using long sentences, the end of each one should be a complete sentence. 

    Many scholars have argued that literature would be impossible to read without long sentences. Teachers often recommend writing lengthy sentences in their literature lessons and literature classes. 

    Why do they recommend it? What benefits can a long sentence bring? 

    •  Long sentences are written so that the writer puts enough attention to details, which increases the reader’s interest. 
    • Long sentences create better flow. When we read shorter sentences, we are more likely to skip to the end and read the last sentence of the paragraph. 
    • As long sentences give many details, they enable the reader to grasp them better. 
    • Longer sentences increase the readability of your writing. If your sentence is short, the reader won’t get all the essential details and nuances that your sentence includes.
    • Longer sentences are more exciting and attractive. They allow a writer put more information into your work without having it cluttered. 
    • A long sentence can be written in a way that builds the scene and keeps the reader’s attention
    • Longer sentences create better suspense.

    Authors routinely craft lengthy sentences in their work with daunting results–often stunningly good results.

    A long sentence, when done well, is complex, interesting, deeply meaningful, and can resonate with readers. It can also be a powerful tool. 

    Longer sentences express complex ideas sincerely, keep readers’ attention and direct them in different directions. They give extra meanings and serve as great pointers in a narrative.

    Long Sentences: How it can Improve Your Writing

    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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