Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Do You Like Sentences?

Books & Culture, September/October 2007



By Alan Jacobs posted 10/08/07

In her wonderful book The Writing Life, Annie Dillard tells this anecdote:

A well-known writer got collared by a university student who asked, 'Do you think I could be a writer?'

"Well," the writer said, "I don't know … . Do you like sentences?"

Since I first read this story many years ago, I have thought that the unnamed author—was it Dillard herself?—gave one of the best possible answers to that eternal question. For writing, the writing of prose anyway, is largely a matter of making sentences: hammering one together, connecting it to another, eventually framing a whole edifice. But one sentence at a time is the only way you can do it.

read complete article here
I love sentences. The problem is I love long complicated convoluted sentences with plenty of adjectives, verbs, nouns, and an ocassional pronouns. To allow my reader to draw a breath while reading my sentences, I sometimes insert a comma.
I know, I know. It drives my editors crazy. Sentences must be short and simple. Like Earnest Hemmingway's. Last time I looked, I am not Earnest Hemingway and I will not be able to contain all the thoughts I want to convey in a short sentence like his.

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Blogger pearlie said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1:11 PM  
Blogger pearlie said...

Do I like sentences? I can't even get 3 lines out!!!!!!!!!!!!

1:12 PM  
Blogger pearlie said...

(sorry I had to remove the earlier comment, with an embarrassing grammatical error :)

1:13 PM  
Blogger Kar Yong said...


3 lines....not 3 sentences....


I know what you mean - I too write long sentences. My supervisor reminded me of that and my editor had to shorten my sentences for me!

8:47 AM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

hi kar yong,

Long sentences are nice. Short sentences abrupt. Truncated somehow. No oomph.

12:44 PM  
Blogger pearlie said...

Kar Yong ... Kar Yong ...

12:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Writing Life is the only Dillard book i've finished...couldn't get past even half of Pilgrim Tinker Creek.

yes, Dillard and Yancey are two of the most 'introspective' writers around, esp. when it comes to words, sentences, etc.

beautiful reading.

10:42 AM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

hi alwyn,

I will include Frederick Bruenner, Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen in that list ;p

2:38 AM  

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