Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Short Sentence as Gospel Truth

“If you ever have a preposterous statement to make … say it in five words or less, because we’re always used to five-word sentences as being the gospel truth.” 
The five-word sentence as the gospel truth. 
Granted, Mr. Wolfe was being a little cynical, but the truth of what he was saying still applies. Express your most powerful thought in the shortest sentence.
 The Short Sentence as Gospel Truth

Point well-taken. Every semester, a number of my international students run into trouble with long, meandering sentences, where the meaning is far from clear. When I talk to them in person and ask them to explain, they have little trouble explaining what they mean, and, invariably, they use shorter, clearer sentences in spoken discourse.

I'd like my students to trust themselves and their writing in English enough to try a variety of sentence lengths and styles. Now, if every sentence of a legal memo consisted of five words, I might take issue with that as well, but, as the article makes clear, using a short, distinct sentence can add a powerful punch to a legal argument or a fact statement. Without, I hope, sounding too preposterous.

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