One thing I’ve learned is that a child should not be given this rope to hang himself if he does not have a mentor to guide him through it.
Short sentences should only be used for emphasis, especially in a philosophical text. That is Flesch’s fatal mistake. Because everybody seems to write this way, our minds are being reduced to simplistic thoughts, thoughts that cannot be extended beyond the immediate subject and predicate, thoughts that don’t demand that we recall the main idea for more than eight or nine words. The person who needs those sentences should not be studying philosophy. He should be studying grammar and learning how to read, two vital foundations for philosophy.
Please note that my primary concern here is not with philosophy but with writing. I’m arguing for the long sentence, contending that we have made ourselves stupid by refusing to express a thought that cannot be reduced to a single clause, by putting periods between every clause and sometimes phrase, by eliminating the semi-colon from the realm of comprehension, by compelling students, even in college, to think about matters for which the reading materials they have encountered have disabled them, by developing an attitude of resentment toward any writer that challenges their intellects beyond a single conjunction.
Have you tried to read Paradise Lost? The challenge is not the length of the sentence, though they are frequently immeasurable; the challenge is remembering the subject of the sentence. But if he had not written it that way, he would not have written the same poem, and the reader would have suffered for it.
We can write very well for business and advertising. Sometimes we get by on scientific writing. But to write about things that matter greatly: metaphysics, theology, ethics, politics, the arts, I say, to write about these matters demands that we be able to control more than a single clause at a time. We cannot think beyond the capacity of our syntax.
– Andrew Kern