Long Sentences Like a Good Wine Endure Through Time

Good Wine Endures Through Time
When did long sentences go out of style? Have we have been taught that in order to grab the attention of the reader we must do it in as few sentences as possible, because we know that the reader’s attention span is very miniscule? Instead the reader’s attention has been captured by the electronic age and it is increasingly harder to get people to read. However, in our rush to capture the reader’s attention have our sentences become less vibrant and less meaningful? Do you strive to become a better writer by writing stronger sentences?

Literary greats have endured the test of time with their sentences that are vibrant and full of meaning. These sentences tantalized our senses like an excellent wine with dinner. Have we become unable to appreciate vibrant verbs, the provocative adjectives, the descriptive adverbs that make a sentence more robust and vibrant? Have our words been reduced to simple sentences on a page? Do you carefully choose each word of your sentences and how it fits with the overall meaning of the piece?

The longer sentence, where every single word is the best that can be found and a word or phrase could not be cut from it without sacrificing something essential; is like a puzzle where every piece is need to complete the picture. Below is an example from the opening of Virginia Woolf’s essay, “On Being Ill.”

“Considering how common illness is, how tremendous the spiritual change that it brings, how astonishing, when the lights of health go down, the undiscovered countries that are then disclosed, what wastes and deserts of the soul a slight attack of influenza brings to view, what precipices and lawns sprinkled with bright flowers a little rise of temperature reveals, what ancient and obdurate oaks are uprooted in us by the act of sickness, how we go down into the pit of death and feel the water of annihilation close above our heads and wake thinking to find ourselves in the presence of the angels and harpers when we have a tooth out and come to the surface in the dentist’s arm-chair and confuse his “Rinse the Mouth —- rinse the mouth” with the greeting of the Deity stooping from the floor of Heaven to welcome us – when we think of this, as we are frequently forced to think of it, it becomes strange indeed that illness has not taken its place with love and battle and jealousy among the prime themes of literature.”

This sentence has 181 words and each word fits like a puzzle. One does not lose the meaning by the time we get to the end of it. Do not fear this sentence because of the number of words as the flow of words sounds like music. It is pleasurable to read, graceful, witty and intelligent. Do you read your sentences to others to hear how they sound? I wonder what Virginia Woolf would say if you told her that short sentences do not reflect the vigor and meaning of longer sentences, but they are in style today.

Happy Reading!

Rebecca Camarena is a virtual book tour coordinator with  Pump Up Your Book.  She is a freelance writer in Southern California with a background in Journalism and Literature.  Her published articles cover a variety of topics from health, weddings, book reviews and animals. You can find her at

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Karen Cioffi said...

I think the long sentence still has its place. And, as you brought out there are some elegant and engaging long sentences that have endured time.

Unfortunately, the long sentences are frowned upon by most editors. I think it does have to do with the shorter and shorter attention spans.

Karen Cioffi Writing and Marketing

Anonymous said...

I like to combine long sentences with short ones to change up how the story reads. Usually I'll tend toward shorter sentences when I'm trying to ramp up the tension.

V.R. Leavitt said...

Wonderful post! I agree, there is still room for long sentences. Like ANY sentence, they have to be well crafted.

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