Writing Season Advice: Don’t Make Your Clauses Too Long. Or Too Short

For more on punctuation and ancient Greek words, see Demetrius

Demetrius, On Style 4

“Don’t write very long clauses, since your sentence then becomes unmeasured and hard to understand. Even poetry rarely exceeds the bound of a hexametric line, and only a little bit. For it would be ridiculous of poetry had no limits and we would forget what started when the line began! And yet, if the length of some clauses are not proper to prose because it goes on too long, others are too short and would create what is called “dry composition” as in the phrase, “life is short, art long, the right time brief.”

(4) Δεῖ δὲ οὔτε πάνυ μακρὰ ποιεῖν τὰ κῶλα, ἐπεί τοι γίνεται ἄμετρος ἡ σύνθεσις ἢ δυσπαρακολούθητος· οὐδὲ γὰρ ἡ ποιητικὴ ὑπὲρ ἑξάμετρον ἦλθεν, εἰ μή που ἐν ὀλίγοις· γελοῖον γὰρ τὸ μέτρον ἄμετρον εἶναι, καὶ καταλήγοντος τοῦ μέτρου ἐπιλελῆσθαι ἡμᾶς πότε ἤρξατο. οὔτε δὴ τὸ μῆκος τῶν κώλων πρέπον τοῖς λόγοις διὰ τὴν ἀμετρίαν, οὔτε ἡ μικρότης, ἐπεί τοι γίνοιτ᾿ ἂν ἡ λεγομένη ξηρὰ σύνθεσις, οἷον ἡ τοιάδε “ὁ βίος βραχύς, ἡ τέχνη μακρά, ὁ καιρὸς ὀξύς.”

Image result for greek hexameter inscription
An early christian inscription

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