Sunday, February 24, 2013

Pin the Punctuation On the Sentence

From an unfortunate sentence from Barry Estabrook's otherwise enjoyable book Tomatoland:

His words roll forth in complete paragraphs, although when he warms to a subject, he sometimes neglects to inhale and has to stop and suck in a breath before picking up at the point at which he ran out of air, giving the impression that in the business of making sure that migrant workers get their due, there is far too much work and far too little time.

Three reminders:
1) Don't forget to let your readers breathe once in a while. Also, extra irony points for forgetting to let your readers breathe in a sentence where you talk about someone who forgets to breathe.

2) If in doubt, always break a sentence down into parts. Don't fear punctuation--it's here to help you.

3) Sentences of four or more lines of text are too long. You're not Virginia Woolf, and your readers are unlikely to tolerate paragraphs masquerading as sentences.