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  1. #31
    Rogue Mutt
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gilfindel View Post
    A reminder to all the newcomers to the forum: check the date of the last post before submitting a reply. This thread was dead and buried 12 years ago.

    That said, I would have put that particular book back on the shelf as soon as I tried to read that sentence. I have no interest in trying to parse someone's tortured grammar.
    Holy cow. How does someone even find a post from 2002 let alone bother to reply to it? Yeesh.



  2. #32
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    I'm a new guy here, but I'd like to put in a good word for replying to old threads that address timeless subjects, and I think this is one of them. Writers will never outgrow their need to study long, readable sentences and learn how to write them. Don't pronounce the topic dead, and certainly don't bury it. Keep it bright with use.

    "Readability" formulas such as the Flesch-Kincaid formula aim to reduce clear writing to arithmetic -- so many syllables per word, so many words per sentence. I don't think that's possible. But if you hunt down books by writing teachers like Joseph M. Williams and George Gopen, you'll find dramatically different ways -- and I would say more useful ways -- to understand how to make long sentences more readable.

    [Footnote: I had supplied links to Flesch-Kincaid, Joseph M. Williams, and George Gopen. But I found that I am too new here to include hyperlinks, so you'll have to search those out for yourself.]

  3. #33
    Senior Member John Oberon's Avatar
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    I've got nothing against long sentences, so long as they're understandable and well-structured.

    Also, I've got nothing against responding to old threads, particularly if the topic gets juices flowing. It's not as if WN is flooded with new posts, you know.

  4. #34
    Senior Member John Oberon's Avatar
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    Long sentence, yep. Very good sentence, not. However, I find it uses several words and phrases that describe the sentence itself aptly like "slow", "challenge", "labyrinth", "intricable mystery", and "confound the unwary reader". It could be taken as a joke, if the whole book weren't written that way.

    Quote Originally Posted by Unhappened View Post
    Chiliad by Simon Otius, at unhappened [dot] com, is almost wholly written in long and very notable sentences. Here is the opening sentence:

    "To avoid giving the impression, – most particularly here at the very gatehouse of this, for the most part, linear narrating of what is believed a remarkable enough history, one that may, — making its slow but inexorable way to credit, — challenge the very tenets of traditional biography, – that words, – generally believed good-fellows, merry men nearly all, – are already right eager, – by building a labyrinth of intricable mystery, – to confound the unwary reader at the very onset : it will prove very useful if a few, simple, but important facts, concerning the family Troke, and their seat, are first supplied."
    Last edited by John Oberon; 04-01-2014 at 04:50 AM.

  5. #35
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    Here's a longish sentence of mine (62 words -- from The First Impression) that I think holds up pretty well. The narrator is a 10-year old boy who lives in the backwoods and is badly mistreated. One rainy afternoon he is hanging around the school yard because he's afraid to go home, and his fifth-grade teacher invites him inside and begins reading David Copperfield to him.

    I deliberately made this sentence longer than its neighbors because I wanted to convey that the boy was mulling over the reasons why this book made such an impression on him:
    I asked her if she would read it to me. She looked skeptical. I suspect she didnít think Copperfield came within reach of one of her fifth-grade bumpkins, especially one from Tolbertís Creek. But I guess she was in an experimental mood, because she opened the book to Chapter 1 and began reading aloud. And in one single, glorious moment, my life changed course. It was as though the canopy of dark clouds hanging over my life suddenly parted and let a sunbeam shine through. I donít know, maybe it was the expressive way she read, or because the book was so different from our simple reading assignments in school, or maybe it was just the novelty of having someone show me a little kindly attention, but whatever the reasons, that story mesmerized me and enchanted me and spirited me away to places I never knew existed.

  6. #36
    Senior Member John Oberon's Avatar
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    Great sentence. Clear, understandable, and easy to read. I'd give it an "A". Only a few things I'd change: delete the empty verb "having", change "show" to "showing, and change "kindly attention" to "kindness", or maybe just change "kindly" to "kind". But it stands strong just as it is.
    Last edited by John Oberon; 04-01-2014 at 06:08 AM.

  7. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Oberon View Post
    Great sentence. Clear, understandable, and easy to read. I'd give it an "A". Only a few things I'd change: delete the empty verb "having", change "show" to "showing, and change "kindly attention" to "kindness", or maybe just change "kindly" to "kind". But it stands strong just as it is.
    Excellent edits. Thank you.

  8. #38
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    Here's one, 106-words, transcribed from James Lee Burke's "Cadillac Jukebox," p183 [paperback]:

    By all odds he should have drowned, but later a group of West Feliciana sheriff's deputies with dogs would find a beached tangle of uprooted trees downstream, with a piece of denim speared on a root, and conclude that Aaron had not only grabbed onto the floating island of river trash but had wedged himself inside its branches like a muskrat and ridden the heart of the river seven miles without being seen before the half-submerged trees bumped gently onto a sandspit on the far side and let Aaron disembark into the free people's world as though he had been delivered by a specially chartered ferry.

  9. #39
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    I actually find that one a bit difficult ... but possibly I'm just discovering my inner Forrest Gump.

  10. #40
    Senior Member John Oberon's Avatar
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    No, Peano, you're not stupid; the sentence sucks. Mr. Burke's a writer who's enthralled with his words. Look what happens when I eliminate all the empty words, unnecessary detail, and pretension:

    He should have drowned, but later, West Feliciana sheriff's deputies found uprooted trees beached downstream with a piece of denim speared on a root. They concluded Aaron wedged himself inside their branches, rode the river seven miles without being seen before he landed on a sandspit, and disembarked as if he were delivered by specially chartered ferry.

    If I can say the same thing in 57 words, I can safely say Mr. Burke's sentence excels in suckage.
    Last edited by John Oberon; 04-02-2014 at 03:43 AM.

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