How do you write a long sentence that is acceptable? - Page 4

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  1. #31
    Feel free to use colons and semi-colons, and ration your commas; too many and it gets irritating. Jane Eyre wrote paragraph long sentences and used so many semi-colons, colons, and commas...so obnoxious. By the time you finished the sentence, the meaning was lost. I'd say use a max of three commas, maybe five, two colons, and two semi-colons. By then, it would be best to just end the sentence altogether.

  2. #32
    Quote Originally Posted by EmmaSohan View Post
    Hi Terry, If a longer sentence had two ideas, we could wonder why the author didn't write two sentences with one idea each. So I assume you think long sentences also contain one idea and cannot be divided in two. True?

    So, right, sometimes a sentence will be long because it takes a lot of words to express an idea. But when an author has two ideas, they usually get bundled into one sentence. At least in fiction. And the sentence could be split in two with no loss of meaning except it will be perceived as choppy.

    So you didn't put a period after, for example, "A short sentence is used to express a single, simple idea." But you put one after "No", and that added a healthy dollop of power.
    A single sentence, regardless of its length, expresses one idea. Longer sentences may be required to express a more complex idea, but it is still one idea. Yes, longer, more complex sentences can often be broken down into two sentences, but, if constructed properly those two sentences will be iterations of the same idea.

    I never said that short sentences couldn't be used for emphasis. I simply said they didn't have to be dramatic.
    “Fools” said I, “You do not know
    Silence like a cancer grows
    Hear my words that I might teach you
    Take my arms that I might reach you”
    But my words like silent raindrops fell
    And echoed in the wells of silence : Simon & Garfunkel


    Those who enjoy stirring the chamber-pot should be required to lick the spoon.

    Our job as writers is to make readers dream, to infiltrate their minds with our words and create a new reality; a reality not theirs, and not ours, but a new, unique combination of both.

    Visit Amazon and the Kindle Store to check out Reflections in a Black Mirror, and Chase

    https://www.amazon.com/author/terrydurbin






  3. #33
    Two ideas in one sentence? Not advisable, imo, except when expressing a dichotomy, or conflict, or moral dilemma. But that's really one complex argument, so... never mind!
    Old man in dream state. Both foolish and wise, but the latter bit may be hard to find.

  4. #34
    Quote Originally Posted by senecaone View Post
    Two ideas in one sentence? Not advisable, imo, except when expressing a dichotomy, or conflict, or moral dilemma. But that's really one complex argument, so... never mind!
    Exactly. I am wary of actually trying to count ideas, but I don't think any attempt will match up with one per sentence.

    I never said that short sentences couldn't be used for emphasis. I simply said they didn't have to be dramatic.
    I never said that short sentences couldn't be used for emphasis, I simply said they didn't have to be dramatic.

    I am not sure those two sentences are two ideas. But if they are, they don't suddenly turn into one idea when they are combined together.

    I shake my head. I try not to smile.
    I shake my head and try not to smile.

    I shake my head and try not to smile, because they'll take it as a weakness and keep pushing.
    Perhaps ironically, I have the "rule" that the reader shouldn't have to read the next sentence to understand the present sentence. I have examples of that error (IMO) in King, Evanovich, and John Green, even though I mostly hold them up as good examples.

    But, in fact, depression is not a side effect of cancer. Depression is a side effect of dying.
    That first sentence stopped me every time I read it.
    Last edited by EmmaSohan; March 14th, 2018 at 01:02 AM. Reason: adding spaces

  5. #35
    Quote Originally Posted by Terry D View Post
    I never said that short sentences couldn't be used for emphasis. I simply said they didn't have to be dramatic.
    Actually, I said a short sentence is usually used for something important; when you disagreed with me, you somehow decided I meant dramatic. Anyway, throwing out the confusion, I think we are agreeing -- emphasis is a great reason to use a short sentence. The idea is that a short sentence gets more attention than if it is combined into a longer sentence.

    Again, it seems to be a basic technique in writing to bundle less important "ideas" into one sentence. Everyone does it. I don't actually like the following sentence, but the bundling seemed within normal to me.

    "Copy that, Alpha One," I replied into my headset, as the outer wall of the abandoned outpost began to emerge from the desert half a mile away, a dark shadow against a dusty brown hill so slight most people wouldn't have noticed it was there. (Shadow War, McFate &Witter, page 1)

  6. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by EmmaSohan View Post
    But when an author has two ideas, they usually get bundled into one sentence. At least in fiction.
    We tried this the other day, and found it almost impossible to keep the ideas separate. Just by having two ideas in the same sentence related them and turned them into one bigger idea. Try it:

    "John turned the key in the lock."
    "Mrs. Judd's apples were best in autumn."

    "John turned the key in the lock, and Mrs. Judd's apples were best in autumn."
    "John turned the key in the lock, but Mrs. Judd's apples were best in autumn."
    "John turned the key in the lock because Mrs. Judd's apples were best in autumn."
    "John turned the key in the lock; Mrs. Judd's apples were best in autumn."
    "John turned the key in the lock -- Mrs. Judd's apples were best in autumn."

    You can do all kinds of causative gymnastics but because of the meaning and relationships implicit in conjunctive clauses (or whatever they're called) it seems impossible to keep them entirely separate. I think what can be done is to load subordinate ideas onto the main one, often in the form of extra detail or some follow-on thoughts; eg:

    "John turned the key in the lock, listening to the tumble and fall of the mechanism that reminded him, in one fleeting moment, of Mrs.. Judd's apples, and how they were best in autumn."




    Beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror which we are barely able to endure, and are awed,
    because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.
    - Rainer Maria Rilke, "Elegy I"

    *

    Is this fire, or is this mask?
    It's the Mantasy!
    - Anonymous

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    C'mon everybody, don't need this crap.
    - Wham!





  7. #37
    Quote Originally Posted by EmmaSohan View Post
    I am not sure those two sentences are two ideas. But if they are, they don't suddenly turn into one idea when they are combined together.
    The 'idea' of that sentence is the contrast between what I said and what you inferred from it. That's only one idea, hence, I wrote it as one sentence. In your rewrite of it using a full stop, You ended up with one sentence, "I never said short sentences couldn't be used for emphasis," and a fragment, "I simple said they didn't have to be dramatic." It's a fragment because, within that sentence, 'they' has no context, making it an incomplete idea.

    Before you go there, I'll admit most fiction writers use fragments, but that's not the topic of this thread.

    Perhaps ironically, I have the "rule" that the reader shouldn't have to read the next sentence to understand the present sentence. I have examples of that error (IMO) in King, Evanovich, and John Green, even though I mostly hold them up as good examples.
    Your 'rule' is simply the definition of a sentence; a group of words expressing an (note the singular) idea, statement, or thought. So, by definition, a sentence should stand on its own. But that doesn't mean the idea expressed will make much sense without the context of the paragraph in which it resides. Remember, words build sentences, sentences build paragraphs, paragraphs build scenes, scenes build chapters, and so on. Each level of construction serves as a foundation for the next, constantly expanding and, above the sentence level, weaving together ideas. The inter-relationship between sentences you refer to shouldn't come as an epiphany. I'd like to see the examples from King, et al, you mentioned. I bet there is a complete idea within each.
    “Fools” said I, “You do not know
    Silence like a cancer grows
    Hear my words that I might teach you
    Take my arms that I might reach you”
    But my words like silent raindrops fell
    And echoed in the wells of silence : Simon & Garfunkel


    Those who enjoy stirring the chamber-pot should be required to lick the spoon.

    Our job as writers is to make readers dream, to infiltrate their minds with our words and create a new reality; a reality not theirs, and not ours, but a new, unique combination of both.

    Visit Amazon and the Kindle Store to check out Reflections in a Black Mirror, and Chase

    https://www.amazon.com/author/terrydurbin






  8. #38
    Quote Originally Posted by Terry D View Post
    Your 'rule' is simply the definition of a sentence; a group of words expressing an (note the singular) idea, statement, or thought. So, by definition, a sentence should stand on its own. But that doesn't mean the idea expressed will make much sense without the context of the paragraph in which it resides. Remember, words build sentences, sentences build paragraphs, paragraphs build scenes, scenes build chapters, and so on. Each level of construction serves as a foundation for the next, constantly expanding and, above the sentence level, weaving together ideas. The inter-relationship between sentences you refer to shouldn't come as an epiphany. I'd like to see the examples from King, et al, you mentioned. I bet there is a complete idea within each.
    Very well said!
    I have nothing further to add, but do very much enjoy the discourse.
    Carry on!
    Old man in dream state. Both foolish and wise, but the latter bit may be hard to find.

  9. #39
    Quote Originally Posted by Terry D View Post
    I'd like to see the examples from King, et al, you mentioned. I bet there is a complete idea within each.
    Thanks. Nice to have backup on this.

    I'll start with Evanovich. The main character is in Florida and we read:

    It was the McDonald's milk shake of air.
    Obviously, you can call that a complete thought. But it isn't. And I didn't experience it as complete -- I stopped and couldn't figure out the sentence. How is the air like a milk shake? The next sentence puts all of the meaning into this one: "You had to work to suck it in." Most of these can be fixed with a simple dash: It was the McDonald's milk shake of air -- you had to work to suck it in.

    From King: The character is at an amusement park, looking for a drug dealer so he can buy some drugs.We read:
    Up ahead was an elaborate mini-golf layout. It was mostly filled with laughing teenagers, and I thought I had arrived at Ground Zero.
    Ground zero is a metaphor, I assume, but for what? The next sentence explained everything. Another from King:

    But writing is a deep and wonderful thing.
    Why? This sentence comes from nowhere. I think the theme here is that the next sentence explains why this sentence exists. The next two examples aren't from King. In the first, she is talking about her close relationship with her sister:

    We never deliberately froze anybody out, but it was challenging for other people to get very close. Scientists needed fifty years to split the atom.
    The air was cool and smelled of sun-dried leaves -- I assumed.
    The last one is my favorite. I rewrote it as:

    The air was cool and smelled of sun-dried leaves. Or so I assumed -- my nose was so clogged, I couldn't sniff out the difference between a tulip and a trash can.
    I'm not sure how to present these. Did you want to see the next sentence too? You wouldn't need it if the sentence was complete in thought.

    Also, my actual claim did not mention ideas, which I worry is a treacherous foundation to build anything on. I said "I have the 'rule' that the reader shouldn't have to read the next sentence to understand the present sentence." The period tells the reader to stop and process the sentence, and in all of these examples, the reader doesn't have enough information to do that. As opposed to normally.

    I guess it's an incomplete idea. But you are welcome to describe this mistake any way you want. (
    Writing is a deep and wonderful thing. Itopens deep wells of memory that were previously capped.)
    Last edited by EmmaSohan; March 15th, 2018 at 02:55 AM. Reason: clarity

  10. #40
    Quote Originally Posted by bdcharles View Post
    We tried this the other day, and found it almost impossible to keep the ideas separate. Just by having two ideas in the same sentence related them and turned them into one bigger idea. Try it:

    "John turned the key in the lock."
    "Mrs. Judd's apples were best in autumn."

    "John turned the key in the lock, and Mrs. Judd's apples were best in autumn."
    "John turned the key in the lock, but Mrs. Judd's apples were best in autumn."
    "John turned the key in the lock because Mrs. Judd's apples were best in autumn."
    "John turned the key in the lock; Mrs. Judd's apples were best in autumn."
    "John turned the key in the lock -- Mrs. Judd's apples were best in autumn."

    You can do all kinds of causative gymnastics but because of the meaning and relationships implicit in conjunctive clauses (or whatever they're called) it seems impossible to keep them entirely separate. I think what can be done is to load subordinate ideas onto the main one, often in the form of extra detail or some follow-on thoughts; eg:

    "John turned the key in the lock, listening to the tumble and fall of the mechanism that reminded him, in one fleeting moment, of Mrs.. Judd's apples, and how they were best in autumn."

    I'm not sure what point you're trying to make with this. This seems like an example from fiction. With that assumption, there's no point to be made. Either turning the key inexplicably caused the character to think about apples, or it didn't. If there's no relationship between the two ideas, they don't belong in the same paragraph, much less the same sentence!

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