Long Sentences, or my fondness for semicolons

I started re-reading Burden of Knowledge today.  In the process, I was reminded of one of my writing habits: long sentences.  I like clauses, I like complex sentences, but I especially like semicolons.

In the first paragraph of Burden there are no semicolons.  There are, however, lots and lots of commas.  In seven sentences there are only two simple sentences; the rest have at least a comma and separate clause, sometimes more.  I find simple sentences boring, especially in stretches of description.

My biggest challenge (and one that all authors face at some level) is varying the type of sentence I use.  It can be very boring to read something with several sentences of the same structure in a row.  When I catch myself, I try to modify the forms, but it can be tricky.  I like to say things a certain way, and keeping my brain engaged enough to change it up from time to time can be difficult.

Thank goodness for revisions and proofreading!


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. aarongraham
    Oct 21, 2011 @ 21:05:22

    Commas kill me, because I can never quite figure out where they go. Semicolons are a bit easier…since I rarely use them.

    Any future post on the proper time and place to use a simicolon as opposed to just using 2 sentences?


  2. georgefloreswrite
    Oct 22, 2011 @ 16:28:02

    I can really relate to this post! My favorite sentence seems to be the one with one comma preceding the word “but”. If left to my own devices, I could probably write a whole novel just varying that one sentence, but I shouldn’t. 🙂


    • Leigh Townsend
      Oct 22, 2011 @ 19:33:54

      My favorite seems to be this variety:
      “Glancing forward in the procession, Caetlyn could see Mara and her husband James.”
      I, too, could write a whole novel with variations on this theme. 🙂


  3. deshipley
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 17:07:03

    Long sentences are a favorite of mine, as well, resulting in the rampant use of commas, semicolons, dashes… not to mention ellipses followed by another related thought. You are correct, though, in pointing out the importance of switching up sentence length in one’s writing. All short sentences would feel choppy; all long, and you’d likely wear your reader out.
    As my writing buddy and I remind ourselves, “Variety: That’s the ticket.”


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