I am currently annoyed. This happened before nine o’clock in the morning, which is, as I’m sure you’d agree, a wonderful way to start your day. But I am annoyed due to a writing matter, and I am not sure with whom – or with what – I am grousing. I just know I’m annoyed, and now I am going to express it.
I am one of those writers who has a tendency to write long sentences. Long, complex (or compound-complex) sentences. So? So indeed. Is that not just my writing style? And is there a problem with having such a writing style? You’d think not, right? Do not our unique, individual writing styles encourage our unique, individual voices to be heard? I think so. This is why I get so, so irritated when I forever see people **other writers** moaning about long, complex sentences, because, to me, it feels like I am being criticised for expressing my voice. That is not fair. And what right does everyone else have to tell you how you should be expressing yourself?
“Er, I’m sorry, Sir, but the lyrics you write don’t appeal to the masses, and so all your music must be wrong.”
“Excuse me, Ma’am, but I don’t think explaining your emotions via analogy is appropriate, and thus your feelings are insignificant.”
Would we say things like this to people? No. Well, I certainly hope not, anyway. But can you tell me how that is any different to writing? No, you cannot, because there is no difference.
“Um, I find some of your sentences too long, and therefore I deem your writing to be sub-par.”
So, what is this gripe the world has towards long sentences? I am not saying we all have to love every type of worldly expression, not at all – we all have our opinions, our likes and dislikes – but just because one type of expression may not be as commonplace in this day and age, that does not mean it is the wrong way to express it. There is no right or wrong with expression. Ever. Don’t let anyone tell you so. I absolutely hate too many short sentences – it makes me twitch – but that does not mean I cast aside a piece of writing expressed in such a way. Every difference has its place. And, indeed, short sentences can be incredibly powerful and effective, and I do quite patently use them, since I have used many in this here post.
I don’t like short sentences because I find them too harsh. Too abrupt. I am not a harsh, abrupt person – certainly not when it comes to my writing, anyway, or only if something has riled me. To me, short sentences are like a malice stomp, whereas longer sentences have a gentleness about them, flowing peacefully on like a little stream; for this reason, I only turn to short sentences when I wish to make a point, or indeed for effect. What is wrong with that? Yeah. Nothing.
Besides, not only are short sentences against my individual voice, but the Ilimoskus story would, quite frankly, be dire if it were written in a ‘shorter’ style. Let me make my point with the opening paragraph:
The sun was low in the sky as the day drew to a close; the faint remainder of light was shining through the trees of the forest in a soothing amber dusk, and birds were tweeting afar in their evensong. Amidst this idyllic setting, however, was Fii’dezrhu Reotum – infamous in the Flamikus ilyor as something of a troublemaker. — ORIGINAL
The sun was low in the sky as the day drew to a close. The faint remainder of light shone through the trees of the forest in a soothing amber dusk, and birds tweeted their evensong. But amid this idyllic setting was Fii’dezrhu Reotum, who was infamous in the Flamikus ilyor as a troubleamker. — ALTERED
I’m sorry, but no. Nuh-uhhhhh. I wonder how many people prefer the second version… Probably many. But it is not me, and it is not my story. With those few, minor alterations, I feel as though the charm of the original version has completely disappeared. I am not forsaking that charm – my voice – just because the world declares that longer sentences are obsolete and unnecessary. I have never been one to listen to the demands of the world around me, nor have I ever been one to oblige against my heart’s will.
It is times like these when I think back to my school days: I was fortunate enough to have the most amazing English teacher, Mrs. Jones, and she was one of the very few who made me feel like I could be something. Someone. One lesson, we were all silently working on our latest piece of coursework (Pride and Prejudice, actually – that old chestnut), and every now and then Mrs. Jones called someone up to her desk to discuss progress and suggest changes. My name was called, and so up I went to her with my work. Now. Mrs. Jones said something to me then that I have never forgotten, and which I will always keep with me, brandishing it whenever this matter emerges:
She pointed to my opening sentence. She said it was very long. But then she said that there were few people in our class who could get away with using such long sentences, and I was one of them.
“It doesn’t matter how long a sentence is, as long as it’s controlled.”
So said she. And how do we get such control over wriggly words? Punctuation. If you can manipulate punctuation properly, you can have controlled sentences that can cover six lines, for goodness sake. And, yes, I indeed have sentences in the Ilimoskus story that cover six lines. It doesn’t mean they’re bad sentences. Long, yes. But controlled. So what is the problem? It’s not like I write like this and include no punctuation whatsoever because that would just be silly and indeed very bad writing for who on earth would want to read a piece of writing that goes on in such a manner?
You are quite welcome to say, “I don’t like ILIMOSKUS, and I don’t like the writing style.” That is perfectly fine. In fact, someone SHOUT it at me! But do not tell me how I should be writing ILIMOSKUS. Do not tell anyone how their voice ‘should’ sound.
I am so sick of writing ‘rules’. They drive me mad. And, as earlier implied, I have always been a rule-breaker, and I will spend my entire life breaking the ‘rules’ of writing, in part to stay true to myself, in part to annoy the world on purpose, for that is just how I am. It’s a slight personality glitch. Or it is? You decide.
How can there possibly BE any writing ‘rules’ anyway? How can we put ‘rules’ on expression?
No. Just no.