Several Short Sentences About Writing

Several Short Sentences About Writing



The Pequod Review:

Verlyn Klinkenborg's slim book Several Short Sentences About Writing is exactly what the title promises. His advice too often just boils down to an injunction to shorten, but nonetheless he has some useful tips:

Without extraneous words or phrases or clauses, there will be room for implication. The longer the sentence, the less it’s able to imply, and writing by implication should be one of your goals. Implication is almost nonexistent in the prose that surrounds you. The prose of law, science, business, journalism, and most academic fields. It was nonexistent in the way you were taught to write. That means you don’t know how to use one of a writer’s most important tools: The ability to suggest more than the words seem to allow, the ability to speak to the reader in silence.


Volunteer sentences are the relics of your education. And the desire to emulate the grown-up, workaday prose that surrounds you. Which is made overwhelmingly of sentences that are banal and structurally thoughtless. A volunteer sentence is almost always a perfunctory sentence. That can change... You may think a volunteer sentence is an inspired one simply because it volunteers. This is one reason to abandon the idea of inspiration. All the idea of inspiration will do is stop you from revising a volunteer sentence. Only revision will tell you whether a sentence that offers itself is worth keeping.