Thursday, December 17, 2009
Some Sententious Sentences on Sentencing
"Jesus wept." It is said to be the shortest sentence in the Bible. I first heard it as an exclamation from my friend Jeannie, from Enid, Oklahoma. Since the expression has biblical origins, one can get away with it as a mild expletive. You can almost hear the sigh that accompanies it. But what else is there to say about sentences? And to whom do I say it? Well, for starters, you can very legitimately start a sentence with "but" or "and," despite what Mrs. Rivers told us in seventh grade at Burdick Junior High School in Stamford, Connecticut. You can also end a sentence with a preposition. It's something you can live with. You can also decide to boldly split an infinitive within your sentence -- and do so with grammatical impunity. The other point I want to make about sentences -- I know, "sentencing" in the heading lured students of criminal justice to this blog under false presentences -- is that, despite a muddy river of digressions, or appositive phrases, or recursively recurring and redundant recasting of words to the point of annoyance, a perfectly grammatical and "correct" sentence is not limited to the soulful brevity of a lachrymose redeemer, but may also include such meanderings as incarnated in this sentence. So, I have said it before and will proclaim it again, "A run-on sentence is not one that 'runs on and on and on' in the impatient reader's mind; a run-on sentence, also known as a comma splice or fused sentence, is a punctuation error -- an error that has nothing whatsoever to do with the number of words or syllables in the sentence, be they running, walking, trotting, sprinting, galloping, sauntering, crawling, or strolling words. I'm done.