Long is Lame

As soon as my first blogpost, on nothing really, was out, I was swamped with feedback. Most of it was good because it came from friends and acquaintances, who probably wanted to be nice. Notwithstanding the element of familial obligation and courtesy in these texts, I was perked up – seemed like I had arrived on the literary firmament. Having sent the customary thankyous, obsessed as I was with my silly first blog, I got down to some sifting. Didn’t take me too long to discern that each of the missives had one common thread – my sentences were too long. Some said they had to be read twice to get the sense. Others were not so kind. I was acutely aware of this shortcoming (‘long’coming, more aptly) and had made a passing mention of the malady in my ibid blog. However, the feedback suggested that the problem needed to be addressed post haste.

So I did some soul searching and complemented it with another kind of search, more common these days …. Google search. While soul search drew a blank, Google helped. I found a few interesting facts – the longest English sentence, which stood at 1288 words till 1983 was later surpassed by a sentence by novelist Jonathan Coe in “The Rotter’s Club” which had a 33 page-long 13,955 word sentence. Talk of long sentences existing only in the mind! I wonder if these were literary stunts to get into the record books, an expression of life-long angst, a way to get back at the English teacher or a purging of the soul. As far as the last goes, I would believe that this was purging of every purgeable part of the anatomy. It was evisceration.

But soul or body, it gave me heart. I was in august company. Of course, my longest was only 64 words, so I had some catching up to do. Maybe I would eventually get there with practice….if I could add another 13,891 words, I could be a contender for podium finish in the field of sentence length. But given the adverse feedback, I thought going with short could yet save the day for me… give my fledgling blogging career a leg up, maybe.

The shortest sentence in the English language is one word, two letters :”Do.” (or, “No.”, or “Go.”). So there is a wide range, array if you will, from 1 to 13955 words to choose from. Popular opinion favours the short sentence. Creative Writing experts never tire of belabouring the virtues of the short, crisp sentence.Essayists and Englit students vie with each other to say more in less. Brevity seems not only to be the soul of wit, but the ticket to literary greatness. With my appallingly long and wordy sentences, I was just not there.

It would appear, ipso facto, that contemporary English writing has no place for long sentences, which reflect, inter alia, the confused state of mind of the writer and of course inability to connect with the reader. So where does that leave long, ghoulish sentence-makers like me? Out in the cold, I would imagine. And what of friend Coe, he of the 13955 word monstrosity? I guess he could forever be in deep freeze.

I recall mentioning in my one-blog old writing career that I have taken to writing not because I nurture notions of literary greatness, but possibly because it has missed me by a mile. Even as I unabashedly chase that chimera, the long and short of it seems to be the debate between long and short. Clearly short is winning.

S0 I have decided to take the antidote to stop my word diarrhea. Can’t say if it will work, given that the ailment is chronic. As is my wont, I put the idea, along with this write-up to the wife, weary under the effects of my new found avocation and its fallout : the put-on demeanour , my accompanying aplomb and swagger. She remarked with her usual disdain, that I could churn up nothing even half good. This evinced me to retort, tongue-in-cheek : “That’s why I have named my blogspot, ‘nothingmuch‘”. While on word play, in the league of catchy, alliterative tag lines like Bold is Beautiful, and in deference to the victory of the short sentence, I conceded – Long is Lame, Short is Sure.

Long live Short.

20 thoughts on “Long is Lame

  1. I read the post by bhaiya…It’s so brilliantly written in the most humble way… in his neonate blog piece, he is amusingly modest enough not to show any emphatic pronouncements towards his already extraordinary familiarity with English language and it’s subtle expressions. Writing comes naturally to him and he knows this fact well enough hence has chosen to utilize it for the targeted upshot. So, he must fiddle with his thoughts as much as possible for the reason that his writing in its most natural way seems to be ready to encompass the myriad experiences of the man who had been exposed to the variety of affairs of it, ranging from the elementary to the most refined ones…therefore, people like him must write more and more for the benefit of others…especially those who love to read about reality but would love it more when it comes to them from the right source in such a style which is naturally distilled and a class apart.

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  2. Very good word play. The theme does not always have to be very profound to engage an audience, if the language has an innate sophistication, as this blog proves.

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  3. “True wit is Nature to perfection dress’d
    What oft was thought but ne’er so well expressed.”
    Brief, crisp ,great economy of words,sparkling wit through self mocking and yet an underlying message to dwell upon.Looking forward to more…

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  4. Short may be sure, but sure is not always comprehensive, even if coherent. It takes long to be both comprehensive and coherent. A sentence is meant to make a complete sense by definition. So pen on Buddy. Pleasure reading you.

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    1. Your comments are so astute Ravi. Good to see you rooting for ‘long’ at a time when short is shouting out loud to hold sway. No wonder you have always been a man after my own heart. Thanks for the encouragement, old pal

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  5. I enjoyed reading this one even more than the last one (and I’m strangely not being facetious as a member of the “friends and family” group). The short sentences are snappier and more entertaining.
    I am reminded of the Gary Provost quote: “This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals–sounds that say listen to this, it is important.”
    The edge of my seat is getting increasingly worn down as I await your future posts.

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    1. That’s a clever comment Arjun! So apt and telling.You have got me wondering if I should stay with ‘long’ and write another piece titled ‘Long live Long’ or something.
      Thanks Champ… encouragement from genX means much.

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