17 July, 2010

Commas vs. Periods

AKA whether long sentences are better than shorter ones, or vice versa.

Personally, I like long sentences. Not too long, like a million semicolons and commas and "and"s but I don't like really short ones, either. I find that periods where sentences could easily be combined breaks up the paragraph unnecessarily and the piece turns choppy.

The shuttle roared to life, now that it had its rider, the twin engines flaring and it gathered amazing speed down the runway. Taking off in the small window of time that allowed for getting into the air and escaping the planet’s gravity, he felt the familiar G-force as the shuttle headed skyward. He felt the also-familiar lurch as the pod’s gravity simulator kicked in and they left the planet behind them, heading for the nearest Nexus entrance. 

That's an average paragraph for me. Some are even longer. Part of it depends on the character, but even when I'm writing about more casual (this guy's an officer and works very closely with the government) people, my sentences tend to be long-ish. 

I've noticed that a lot of people write in shorter, more direct sentences, and I was wondering: which do you prefer? I suppose it's rather subjective, but a lot of books seem to have shorter sentences with less in them, instead of combining the points into one sentence that holds more information.

-----The Golden Eagle


The Words Crafter said...

I, too, prefer longer sentences. That's usually what comes out in writing AND blogging. Sometimes shorter sentences are needed, but I feel like they're choppy and mess with the rhythm of the whole thing. For me, short sentences are necessary evils. I thought it was just me....

laughingwolf said...

ernie sez:


Anonymous said...

I prefer short sentences, personally. I like one word sentences. :) That's what I use a lot in my writing. Mixed in with longer ones, of course. But sometimes short sentences can be so powerful.

The Golden Eagle said...

The Words Crafter: Whew! I'm not the only one who prefers longer sentences. :)

Laughingwolf: I've never read Ernest Hemingway, actually. I should. It might change my opinion on how well shorter sentences work.

Shaynie: Shorter sentences can definitely be powerful; the word "No", for example, can carry so much meaning.

dennis hodgson said...

As a former book editor, I have only one criterion for judging a sentence: if you need to read it twice to apprehend the meaning, then it needs to be rewritten.

In a philosophy title I once edited, I encountered a sentence of 13 lines, with six sections of text in parentheses and no less than eight dashes. It took me almost an hour to work out what the author intended and reword it as five or six separate sentences.

Long sentences are fine if they flow from beginning to end and don't require that the reader refers back to an earlier point in the sentence.