Lament for the Loss of Long Sentences

Apparently, nobody knows how to read anymore.  If you express yourself in clauses and sub clauses, or want to develop an idea over the course of a single sentence, you’re confusing people.  What should a writer do?

If the aim is to communicate with cattle; then set out the entire thesis of your argument in a bullet pointed list, I suppose, by all means.  Why not, for all the good it will do?  In summarising to the extent that you can reduce your ideas to a bullet pointed list, there is so much loss of nuance and subtlety that you might as well have not bothered to set your thoughts out in writing at all.  What good does it do to communicate incomplete, indistinct, ambiguous ideas with brevity?  It’s a distortion, that’s what it is.

However, if you want to stimulate intelligent discussion, provoke thought or change the world into the sort of place where people are able to comprehend long sentences fully, then I suggest writers continue to fight battles against the dumbing-down of society and provide those long sentences, which marketing web site graders so abhor.  If writers don’t, who else will?

It’s bad enough fighting against the Microsoft Word grammar checker, autocorrect and the prevalence of so-called “American English” spelling.  Now we have to truncate our train of thought so that it fits into ten word sound bites.  Has the world gone mad?

The loss of long sentences and a population unable to comprehend them is an insidious evil.  It leads to the loss of shades of meaning and toward a tendency to see everything in stark, black and white terms.  It removes the beauty of the language and replaces it with a utilitarian brutality, which serves only to obfuscate important distinctions and to forcibly regiment thought into regularised, homogenised categories.  In short, it’s a kind of intellectual fascism.

The loss of facility with language is precisely equivalent to a loss of power.  It makes you more manipulable and susceptible to emotional, knee-jerk slogans, with no underlying substance, delivered by vacuous puppets; the playthings of the powerful.  Without the means to express complex ideas and the comprehension of finely developed concepts, you lose something important, as a society.  Everything has to fit the predefined, pre-ordained form, or it’s immediately rejected.

Tl;dr.  It means “too long; didn’t read” and that has to be explained, because the meaning is completely obscured by the acronym itself.  Somebody encountering it for the very first time can only guess at what the letters represent.  Ironically, this terse, derisive insult to writers retains the semi-colon; once the marker of sub clauses in sentences which developed complex ideas.  There is nothing complex about this abomination.  It’s a proud assertion of being too indolent to spend the time required to read the preceding text in detail.  It proudly states that the reader actively and deliberately chooses to remain ignorant of the finer points of the argument; as if they are too busy and too important to bother and pretending they have better things to do with their time and attention.  This one piece of Internet slang is the very bane of our civilisation.  This is the reason we go to war on false premises, why we can be endlessly swindled and harmed by profiteers and why our politicians and financiers constantly get away with the outrageous.  We can’t be bothered with the details.

If one counts the social media interest score of this web site, it becomes abundantly clear that those on social media are barely interested in the ideas set forth here.  There’s plenty of content, but nobody is interested in it.  Well, this site isn’t for that majority.  It is for those that bother to read deeply, to think clearly and to entertain ideas that are outside of the accepted orthodoxies.  It’s for people that want to use and expand their brains, in the service of art.

I recommend reading books that were written over a hundred years ago.  There are many and they are free, as PDFs, because they are out of copyright, but some lunatics, somewhere, thought they were worth preserving on line.  What you will notice, besides the use of complex, long sentences, is that the vocabulary is full of what we, today, classify as “archaic” words, as if such words are a bad thing.  No, an archaic word is the loss of a piece of the language which precisely and concisely expressed an important distinction.  Substituting more modern words, for these archaic ones, leads to a loss of meaning and a smearing of distinctions.  When you get used to the prose and learn the long-forgotten words, what is striking is how colourful and vivid the writing is and how easy to grasp deep ideas become.  There is great joy in reading these forgotten works.

One notable example I encountered was an attempt to rewrite “Progress and Poverty” in a modern idiom.  I read both the original and the rewrite, side by side.  What became clear was how much meaning had been removed, in the rewrite, despite the author’s sincere attempt to provide a more accessible version of a long lost classic.  It was worth the reader’s time to learn how to read the original, because in doing so, more meaning could be conveyed into your brain.  The meaning, in this particular book, is well worth absorbing.

My wife, faced with the prospect of communicating clinical trial data to an audience of professors and PhDs, was instructed to use shorter words and sentences, so that these poor, befuddled people could grasp the barest thread of her meaning.  She, of course, refused point blank.  If an audience of professors and PhDs is incapable of comprehending long sentences and precisely intended words, what hope is there?  She wasn’t trying to explain these specialist concepts to brick layers or ditch diggers (no sleight against these honourable occupations intended).  She was addressing people who ought to have been entirely comfortable with her language and terms.

So, for the benefit of those that cannot be bothered to learn to read long sentences, let me set forth my argument for you, in bullet points:

  • You’re an ignorant zombie.
  • You like it that way.
  • You don’t care that it makes you stupid and pliable.
  • You probably had to look up the word “pliable”.
  • Most of you couldn’t be bothered to look up “pliable”.
  • Your life will always be controlled by other people.
  • Nothing will ever get better.
  • You will be affronted by your own distorted interpretation of this list.
  • What I said and what you understood will always be different.
  • We don’t connect, in any way, as human beings.

On the other hand, if you reject the “marketing-isation” of humanity (don’t get me started on neologisms) and want to read and write long sentences, I applaud your effort and hope that in doing so, you enjoy a richer intellectual life, infused with soaring ideas and possibilities, communicated to you across time and space, by people that had excellent ideas to share.  It will make you a better person.

About tropicaltheartist

You can find out more about me here: There aren’t many people that exist in that conjunction of art, design, science and engineering, but this is where I live. I am an artist, a musician, a designer, a creator, a scientist, a technologist, an innovator and an engineer and I have a genuine, deep passion for each field. Most importantly, I am able to see the connections and similarities between each field of intellectual endeavour and apply the lessons I learn in one discipline to my other disciplines. To me, they are all part of the same continuum of creativity. I write about what I know, through my blogs, in the hope that something I write will resonate with a reader and help them enjoy their own creative life more fully. I am, in summary, a highly creative individual, but with the ability to get things done efficiently. Not all of these skills are valued by the world at large, but I am who I am and this is me. The opinions stated here are my own and not necessarily the opinion or position of my employer.
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