Dec 28, 2017, 07:01AM

How to Write Sentences

You don’t fill these books with sentences. You fill them with words.

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No author wants to write a good sentence. Why should they? You don’t fill one of those fashionably mammoth volumes with sentences. You fill them with words. A 1,000-page tome about the poetics of professional wrestling will earn you tenure at any one of the historically-white universities. A trilogy has even more words, and an unfinished, ever-growing novel is close to godliness. Modern writers need words. They need them fast. Sentences get in the way.

Here, then, are my solutions to the numerous problems presented by traditional sentences.

A word of caution. When I say, “Don’t write X, write Y,” I don’t mean, “Write a sentence similar to Y,” I mean “write Y exactly.” You might fret that your astute readers will pick up on the idiosyncratic sentence repetition among today’s top writers—they won’t, no one reads, we have the evidence to support this—but in any case, you have an easy response: “Yes, this is the exact same sentence that appears in J. Trunsey’s Old Woes and Chipped Chopped Ham. We both drink from the same well, that of eucharistic literature, stories that exist only in their constant repetition and performance. Past generations had theater, but no one likes black boxes anymore. Our theater is the cyclic play of these sentences, the bold premiere in his book, the matinée in hers, the reunion tour in mine. Are there connections between our stories? No. Yes.”

Without further ado, “How to Write Sentences.”


Never write, “He was sad.” Instead, write, “He grimaced in pain after changing his most popular profile picture.”

Never write, “They had sex.” Instead, write, “He spent the day watching The Big Bang Theory and wondered where all the time had gone.”

Never write, “He missed his mother.” Instead, write, “His heart weighed 833 grams, almost a kilogram—a large heart indeed!”

Never write, “He hit the home run.” Instead, write, “He didn’t swing to win, he swung because his hypertrophied arms had swollen into steroidal grapefruits custom-made for bear-hugging Make-a-Wish kids.”

Never write, “He popped a sick ollie.” Instead, write, “Down. Down. Down. You have to go down to go up. It’s called investment. It’s called getting air.”

Never write, “He wondered.” Instead, write, “His blue eyes flicked from her face to the dog’s. ‘What has my wife become? I mean, what has my LIFE become?’ [Cue a laugh track that’s louder than the 21-gun salutes at a thousand First Responder funerals]”

Never write, “They married.” Instead, write, “The wedding dress, salvaged from the wreck, didn’t fit any of their best friends, so they gave up on love entirely.”

Never write, “He was loved and admired”. Instead, write, “His potency was enhanced by the galley proofs of his upcoming novel.”

Never write, “They danced.” Instead, write, “He struggled to remember what the dress forms in the attic had taught him about anatomy and physics.”

Never write, “He died.” Instead, write, “He perished as he had once thrived: shopping for great deals on seltzer water at the Aldi.”

Never write, “No author wants to write a good sentence.” Instead, write, “He was halfway through his blog about how Stephen Curry was sorta like Stephen Malkmus when the WYSIWYG editor refreshed and he lost everything he had written.


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