Karla Mouncey-Jaggers

How Long Should a Sentence Be?

In Book 1 on August 27, 2011 at 11:58 am

When I wrote my first draft of book one, I was not worrying about grammar or punctuation. I was concentrating purely on getting the book out of my head on the page. Now I am typing up the book from my hand written scribbles I am finding myself struggling between using short punchy sentences and long descriptive ones. In my original notes I used a lot of commas instead of using words like ‘and’ or ‘as’. The book reads very much like the internal thoughts of my protagonist and the way she talks and thinks in fits and starts. The question then becomes how much effort should I put into making the sentences grammatically correct. I think I could be at risk of stifling her original voice by dwelling to much on the ‘appropriate’ way to write.

I had an English teacher that told me I should never start a sentence with ‘but’. But what if the previous sentence is far too long and by not starting a new one it become wordy and leaves the reader out of breath. Are there loopholes when is comes to writing colloquially? I always disagreed with grammar and spelling in school and I praise the day spell check was invented. However I now find myself thinking far too much about how others will read the book and not enough about Liv’s original voice.

When reading does the reader actually notice things like the length of sentences? I find that I will only notice the words on the page if something seems out of place. I would never read a sentence in a book and think ‘my god that sentence was put together really well’. I am too busy seeing what the sentence is showing me to notice its construction. My mother (who used to proof read all my essays) told me she loves short precise sentences. My father (who has never been much of a writer) tends to ramble on in long and complicated sentences. My writing style seems to be a mixture of both.

Notice the long sentence preceding a very short one!

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