This article is long winded and misses the point. Meandering, due to the lengthy quotes, this article presents several ideas and manages a conclusion towards the end. Despite the claims that topic is long sentences, this article’s content is really about rhythm, and how there is just as much value in long sentences as in short sentences. That Theodora struggled with the topic of her article seems evident in the structure of the article itself. She spends the first 550 words of her article quoting an article by Pico Iyer and offhandedly refuting Pico’s article (with only a 150 word response to the 242 word quotation). She then continues with a quote that formed the basis for her article, from Pico’s article, and concludes, “And you know, I see his point.” (at the 76% mark in her 1015 word article.) While there is more to the article, I’ll let you read it for yourself. The point of my article is about what drew me in, what I thought of this opinion article, and what the content of the article was (to me) versus what Theodora claimed the article was about.
The start of her article didn’t grab me at all, and it wasn’t until I reread it carefully that I realized that what really drew me in was the start of the article she spends most of her time quoting (and refuting).
“‘Your sentences are so long,’” said a friend who teaches English at a local college, and I could tell she didn’t quite mean it as a compliment.
So says the first line of that Theodora Goss is quoting. That hook is excellent, but Theodora’s beginning: “Recently, the Los Angeles Times published an article …” is less enticing. Pico’s article (at least the part that is quoted) is flush with long, multi-clause sentences, sprinkled liberally with adjectives, adverbs, and conjunctions. His writing is readable and complex, bordering on being florid without being convoluted. I am certainly inspired by his style of prose; I find myself tempted to try longer sentences (Theodora felt the same way), but I also find myself thinking that Pico’s writing is too long. There is no urgency to his writing, which might be perfect for journalism, but for fiction it just does not work.
Ironically, Theodora ends her guest post succinctly (at odds with the title):
So, long sentences. But more important than that, nuance and depth. Those are the lessons for today.
So, long sentences, indeed. Which leads me to the conclusion of my article: this article by Theodora Goss is a mess. While it presents some interesting food for thought, the topic not discussed is rhythm (a topic which is currently plaguing me). Rhythm is at the heart of Theodora’s article, even if she never mentions the word. Pico’s use of long sentences, multiple clauses, and verbosity may provide the information dump (i.e., “bombardment of the moment”) that he so desperately desires, but it also creates a languid, almost soporific feeling to the prose. Amazingly, Pico’s hook is short, being a five word quote. The next shortest sentence in the quotes (provided by Theodora) is eight words.
Long sentences may communicate nuance and depth, but short sentences are like punctuation: Proper use greatly improves your writing. What’s more, sometimes the best way to say something is by not saying it at all.
And that was the lesson I learned today.