Are you a fan of writing long sentences or do you prefer to always write short and simple ones?
I am not an advocate of English grammar. In fact I don’t think I would be able to list some of the rules of grammar that I have studied in school. Writing for me has become more of a habit. I know that when my sentence doesn’t sound right I have to fix it to something that makes sense. But I do remember over the years my English teachers repeatedly saying: “Make your sentences short and simple.”
A sentence is a group of words put together that makes complete sense.
A simple sentence is one that contains one finite verb.
A complex sentence is one that contains one main clause and one or more subordinate clauses.
Literature is full of examples of all sorts of writing.
When Ernest Hemingway, number one on my list of favorite authors, wrote, every writer in the world started imitating him. In the words of Steinbeck:
“In my time, Ernest Hemingway wrote a certain kind of story better and more effectively than it had ever been done before. He wrote a special kind of story out of a special kind of mind and about special moods and situations. When his method was accepted no other method was admired.”
Leonard Bishop, whose first book Down All Your Streets achieved national acclaim and became a bestseller, also used simple sentences and a tight manner of writing yet for a totally different reason.
“I developed a direct, tight manner of writing. I knew that if I kept my sentences short, no one would suspect I was ignorant. Short sentences couldn’t contain much grammar. The words I used were abrupt, jab words.”
However, you cannot write about all subject matters using the Hemingway style. Some topics such as historical novels where there’s a lot of description and reference to past events cannot be written using short and abrupt sentences. Even though I believe that the best writing is the simplest writing and it is hard to do, perhaps even the hardest thing to do, your main concern as writer should be to move your story forward. Whether you use short and abrupt sentences, or long descriptive ones, you have to keep your readers interested enough in your story for them to want to stay with you till the end.
But I also believe that what you say is more important than how you say it. Here’s how Leonard Bishop explained the main reason his stories were accepted:
“It wasn’t intelligence, it wasn’t imitative cunning, or academic razzle-dazzle, or style. It was content.”