I bought Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer’s Craft from the Great Courses and it got me wondering, is less more?
In all my research about the writing craft and its techniques, and seeing all the edits fellow writers have done to my work on Reddit, I was under the impression that blunting readers with short, bite-sized chunks was a better way of conveying information than long, meandering sentences.
The above sentence is 53 words. Let’s pair is down and see if shorter is better.
all my research researching about the writing craft and its techniques, and seeing all the edits fellow writers have done to my work on Reddit, I was under the impression assumed that blunting readers with short , bite-sized chunks was a better way of conveying information than long, meandering sentences were better at conveying information.
That’s 14 words.
Which is better? Sure the short one delivers the core information, but it does so without embellishment, without any care for the surroundings or background of the sentence. Professor Brooks Landon might call this a “tough guy” sentence – a declarative punch more than thoughtfully organized prose.
The course introduced an exercise to help identify the key parts of a sentence and gave some ideas on how to spring from that kernel.
First, use the opening sentence of a news article, and since all news is Donald Trump, here’s mine taken from the New York Times (I think):
Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump on Wednesday said he hoped that Russia would hack Hillary Clinton’s email server to find “missing” messages and release them to the public.
Boiling this down to its kernel(s):
Donald Trump hoped Russia would hack Hillary Clinton’s email server. He hoped “missing” emails would be released to the public.
Here my attempt at building it, with some poetic license:
Standing before a colossal American flag, his thin hair dancing in the mid-July wind, his back to the golden letters spelling out his name as if written in the stars, Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump pounded the podium, openly challenging Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s email server to find the “missing” messages that evaded FBI scrutiny, and release them to the public.
More prose-like and definitely longer, it paints a more striking picture than the simple who-what-where of the article, but is it better?
Obviously, there is a time and place for any one type of sentence, but the idea that sentences do not have to be short to be good is a refreshing idea.